Friday, 30 April 2010

Newspaper Endorsement of the Day

  
Even the Guardian has now abandoned the Labour party by today announcing that they are endorsing the Lib Dems:


Its all over for both Albert Owen and his party I fear.
    
UPDATE: For the best analysis of the Guardian's defection to the Lib Dems, read this. Incidentally, I must say Doctor Huw's daily updates on the election campaign have been daily must reads for the Druid.  
    

NFU/FUW Hustings Update

          
By all accounts last night's NFU/FUW Agricultural hustings was a rough and rowdy affair featuring some fiery exchanges between the candidates. Here's what I have been able to glean from a number of attendees:

  • The venue was changed at the last moment from The Bull Hotel to the adjacent Llangefni Town Hall. Attendees were told that this was because a larger than expected number of people had turned up - however, as the Welsh Christian Party candidate, David Owen was also present could the real reason be because he had declined to attend a debate in a pub? After all he has been in the press objecting to the use of a pub in Llanfachtraeth as a polling station
  • Plaid's Dylan Rees was apparently surprisingly knowledgeable about matters agricultural, even pointing out in his opening address that he was "aware of the importance of farming to rural areas" - Really? Who'd have though it.
  • All candidates rightly paid tribute to Albert Owen's private members bill to set up a Supermarket Ombudsman ("Oftrolley"), however Albert Owen himself candidly admitted that his party was not behind him (indeed the bill failed to go through before Parliament was recently suspended because the Labour government failed to provide time for the necessary debates and procedures). All candidates also said that if elected they would pledge to put similar legislation in place.
  • The biggest bust up of the night came in exchanges between Albert Owen and the Conservative candidate, Anthony Ridge-Newman. Owen once again objected to Ridge-Newman saying that Anglesey is the poorest county in the UK by complaining that the Office of National Statistic's GVA figures only breaks Wales down into eight regions whilst there are 22 counties in Wales. Therefore should those eight regions be subdivided into counties, some places in South Wales would have even lower GVA figures then Anglesey. A clearly angry Ridge-Newman was cut off mid response by a member of the audience loudly demanding "how many counties are there in Wales?". Either the man was able to immediately follow Albert's torturous sophistry or was a frustrated geography teacher - whichever way, Ridge-Newman replied that he didn't know, but nor does he know how many counties there are in England or Scotland either. Cue a very smug expression on Albert Owen's face. For the sake of balance I should point out that the frustrated geography teacher later apparently also attacked Plaid's Dylan Rees and former MP, Keith Best, for only being "dynamic in applying for BT shares" so perhaps he wasn't entirely apolitical. 
  • In exchanges about Wylfa B, Albert Owen revealed that Energy Secretary Ed Milliband had told him the day before that in the event of a hung parliament Labour would never compromise their pro-nuclear energy policy for the sake of clinging onto power in a coalition government. Dylan Rees was taken to task by the audience for Plaid Cymru's mixed messages on nuclear (Rees is personally pro-Wylfa B whilst his party, and his manifesto is strongly against it). This point was taken up by Peter Rogers who also pointed out that Plaid's Elfyn Llwyd was campaigning against low flying RAF jets in Wales, whilst Rees is pro-RAF valley. "At least we have a manifesto" retorted Rees - "whats the point of having one if you don't follow the policies in it?" came back Peter Roger's reply. At which point angry farmers complained to the Chairman that they had come to the meeting to discuss agricultural matters, not energy policy.
  • A dairy farmer said that thanks to the fall of the pound against the euro, he was now doing very well indeed and therefore could any of the candidates tell him why he should vote for anyone other than Labour? The Druid is not sure if the farmer in question actually thought it was official Labour policy to wreck the UK economy and thus devalue sterling or not.
  • Other questions from the floor covered the lack of new farmers coming in to the profession, damaging EU legislation, why French farmers got more benefits than UK farmers, and badger culls.
  • The Welsh Christian Party's David Owen was apparently surprisingly jocular, coming out with some of the only gags of the evening. Whilst patting his quite large stomach he told the audience that he was glad to attend the agricultural hustings because he "likes his food". He also later revealed that there are "badgers on every street corner in South Wales". You heard it here first.
  • The Lib Dem Matt Wood apparently had a poor night of it. With a small voice and arms waving around uncontrollably like those of a string puppet, he was rarely allowed to finish his points before the Chairman briskly moved on to the next question. The UKIP candidate, Elaine Gill, didn't turn up.

UPDATE: Another attendee calls to say that there was some unintended hilarity at the start of the hustings when the Chairman was forced to apologise that the fliers for the meeting incorrectly identifying Peter Rogers as the 'Conservative candidate'... ooh, touchy subject!
         

Thursday, 29 April 2010

++ IOACC Senior Councillor to resign ++ (Updated again)

  
It appears that a senior councillor is to resign following certain revelations. Predictions are that the Recovery Board may be forced to step in and require the resignation of the entire Executive within weeks. Details are garbled so if you have any clearer information, post it in comments....

UPDATE: The councillor who has gone is the Conservative Mr Goronwy Parry who represents Valley. It appears that he has been forced out by Council Leader, Clive McGregor, and Interim MD, David Bowles, for "undermining the council's recovery" by supporting the expelled Cllr Barrie Durkin. Apparently Parry sent the following letter to Durkin after the latter was expelled from the Original Independents group and isolated within the council:

"I write to you as a friend although you may doubt this after last night's events. I regret any hurt that you have felt and understand how you must feel. There are many members of the group who feel your hurt. You may think that your friends have left you, but the truth is that they are still there and will miss you. I admire your forthrightness, your sincerity and your firmness that there is a difference between right and wrong. Take this opportunity to carry out you intentions. In time you will return in an important capacity within the group. Don't forget that the foot-soldiers of the group are still your friends"

UPDATE 2: In a letter to all councillors yesterday, IOACC Interim MD, David Bowles, has responded to Barrie Durkin's press release:


Dear Councillor
Allegations made by Councillor Durkin in respect of Town Improvement Grant and Housing Grant
Members will be aware of an increasing number of smears and allegations made by Councillor Durkin. Some of these are directed at me and my general approach is not to dignify them with any comment at all. I do, however, feel that I must comment when these allegations refer to other officers of the Council.
I am, therefore, compelled to write to you following a letter of the 6th April which I understand was forwarded by Councillor Durkin to all elected members of the Council and copied to the Chairperson of Recovery Board. Similar allegations have appeared elsewhere.
This letter is in response to the unsubstantiated allegation repeated by Councillor Durkin of a fraudulent conspiracy relating to Town Improvement Grants and Housing Grants which, he alleges, involves “senior officers”.
I am aware of the particular case to which Councillor Durkin refers as he raised the matter with both me and the Leader. In particular Councillor Durkin wrote to me on the 21st March raising his concerns.
You will appreciate that I will not identify the case in question for reasons which, I think, will be obvious when you have read this letter.
Having asked for an explanation from relevant officers, I replied to Councillor Durkin by e-mail on the 26th March. Councillor Durkin replied the same day to say “thank you for your reply and take full notice of what you say.”
What I told Councillor Durkin then was that there had already been an extensive investigation taking around 120 days by Internal Audit into this matter and that the matter had been referred to External Audit. It should also have been clear from that reply that if there were concerns they were not within the Council.
I can confirm to you that no evidence has been found to substantiate the allegation that “some senior officers are involved in a fraudulent conspiracy”.
I am not aware that Councillor Durkin has any evidence to substantiate such a serious allegation and, if he has evidence, he has not presented it to me.
There are certain recommendations arising out of the investigation as regards procedures and future administration of grants but there is no evidence of any criminal act by officers be that by way of a conspiracy or otherwise.
The investigations in respect of this case have raised questions with regard to the applicant and certain agents employed by the applicant. Some terms of the grant have not been complied with and the Council has requested re-payment of the grant monies.
The Council is only responsible for payment of the Home Improvement Grants. It is not responsible for the Town Improvement Grant as that is funded by the Welsh Assembly Goverment.
I must let you decide what public interest there may be in Councillor Durkin having circulated such a heinous allegation after I had previously responded to him. It is only right and proper that I write you this letter so that you may come to a view as to what may lie behind Councilor Durkin’s action.
 
UPDATE 3:  In his above letter to all councillors, David Bowles refers to a letter from Cllr Barrie Durkin. As a commenter has posted the full text of that letter below, I will also add it here. Please note: I am not taking sides; I, like many Anglesey residents, have simply gotten fed up with our train-wreck of a council. Whilst Anglesey residents have this year been hit with one of the largest Council Tax rises in Wales, our council is riven with infighting and petty politics. Anglesey residents deserve better and I believe its time that a little sunlight was let in on what is going on behind the scenes. That is why I am posting these letters here.


"Dear Mr Bowles.
Since early 2004, long before I became an elected representative of the people, I was raising issues relating to breaches of planning procedural rules and failure to declare interests at Planning Committee Meeting by members of that committee, to the point where, I have even taken part in a number of television programs on the subject. Yet although I have being vindicated on all accounts, I have falsely accused of liable,sanctioned, abused, threatened, demonised and marginalised, not just in the past, but more so now, by you".
"It is clear to me, contrary to your record of fair play and routing out wrongdoing, you have shown yourself to be more akin to attacking the messenger. This has clearly manifested itself over the last week or two and will no longer be tolerated. I believe my solicitor has written to you to no avail".
So there can be no misunderstanding, I welcome intervention; it should have been here long ago, after all, the council has not been properly run since its interception in 1996.
"I welcomed and supported you in your endeavours to move the council forward. However, we clearly have a difference of opinion on how to do this.
You wish to bury the past, shove wrongdoings under the carpet, so to speak. Where I wish to see those involved in unlawful activities , who have brought the council into so much disrepute, to book. not just relating to issues of planning, but fraud and corruption".
"This brings me to the allegations of alleged fraud appertaining to grants, which I have received recently from Mr.....and his accountant Mr...... I have informed Cllr McGregor of the situation, and look forward to see what you are going to do about it".
"I point you to Anglesey County Council Constitution page 201.6(1)B and to the requirements relating to the, Fraud Act 2006,section3. Fraud by failing to disclose information".
"Again, so there can be no misunderstanding, I am more than prepared to ensure that the above requirements are met if others fail to do so".
        

Quote of the Day 2 (Farmers v Police edition)

  
The Druid's report of the Treaddur Bay business hustings included the following section on Plaid's Dylan Rees:

"Dylan Rees told the assembled entrepreneurs that it was incorrect to say that he has no business experience. No, no, he said, as a Police Inspector he had to look after 40 officers, nine patrol cars, and deal with reams of paperwork - so it was just like running a company. The Druid begs to differ - there's a big difference between being a 'manager' and having the business acumen to develop products or services, find a market, take a financial risk, and make sales to meet a payroll."

This led to a discussion as to what 'business acumen' Peter Rogers has as a farmer. It was pointed out that a farm is actually a business, at which point a self-professed Plaid Cymru supporter then posted the below comment:

"Come on Druid, its clutching at straws to claim that a farm is a business and then claim that Dylan Rees has no business experience. The logical conclusion of that sort of analysis is that 'managing' 40 cows and 9 tractors is easier than 40 policemen and 9 police cars."

Leading to today's second Quote of the Day from Anonymous 09:35:

"I would say there is a massive difference between farming and policing - in policing there is no risk to your income, you have static or rising income, you invest none of your own money, you lose none of your own money, you make none of your own money, you follow orders and procedures rather than making your own decisions, there is an organisation responsible for your welfare and your retirement is taken care of."

Hear, hear.

Finally, the Agricultural Hustings will be held under the NFU and FUW's auspices in The Bull, Llangefni, this evening at 7pm. If you're interested in farming matters do attend, if not check back here later for the Druid's report.
  

Quote of the Day (Out of power for a generation-edition)

    
U.S. Economist David Hale recounts a private conversation with Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England:

"I saw the governor of the Bank of England last week when I was in London and he told me whoever wins this election will be out of power for a whole generation because of how tough the fiscal austerity will have to be."

Lets all remember that whoever wins this election, the cuts which will inevitably be imposed will be Labour cuts. A profligate Labour Party has over 13 years racked up this vast deficit and public sector debt - the cuts will belong to them and them alone.
      

Ed Milliband and Labour's empty promises to Anglesey

  
Ed and Albert getting down with the kids in Moelfre (photo: Daily Post)

Seeing how one of Labour's top brass, Ed Milliband, visited Anglesey yesterday to campaign with Albert Owen, it would appear that Labour still thought that they had a fighting chance of winning on the island. Of course that was before Rochdale's Mrs Duffy made the fateful decision to nip down to the local shops to buy a loaf - thus initiating a chain of events which, among other eventualities, must also surely lead to Albert Owen picking up his P45 on May 7th.

Putting that to one side, Ed Milliband apparently came to Anglesey to give his backing to the "Energy Island" concept - which is I suppose a good thing (even though Ed himself also has about zero chance of still being Energy Minister post the election). Anyway I thought this might be a good time to take a look back at the various "announcements" we have recently heard from Labour about green jobs on the Anglesey:

  
17 February 2010: The Daily Post devoted several pages to an announcement by Welsh Secretary Peter Hain that an unnamed company was very interested in converting the Anglesey Aluminium premises into a wind turbine factory which would result in hundreds of jobs. He even went so far as to say that this was the "he beginning of good times" for Anglesey.

RESULT: We never heard anything about it again.


18 February 2010: The very next day the Daily Post again devoted a number of pages to another Peter Hain announcement. This time he "unveiled" 240 green jobs in Anglesey and Gwynedd.

RESULT: It turned out the the 'jobs' weren't jobs - they were kind of work experience opportunities for 18-24 year olds who have been out of work for over a year. Furthermore they weren't actually in Anglesey or Gwynedd - they were with a charity based in Wrexham.


26 March 2010: More headlines in the Daily Post announcing that Anglesey was in the running to receive £100m of investment to turn the Anglesey Aluminium plant into a wind turbine factory which would result in 1,900 jobs. Its important to note that this news had nothing at all to do with the first similar announcement made on 17 February  - this time the company was GE. Apparently Peter Hain was making "urgent calls' to them.

RESULT: We never heard anything about it again.

What can we conclude from all of this? Here's the Druid's opinion:

  • The Daily Post is remarkably gullible;
  • Don't believe anything Peter Hain says;
  • Labour are better at generating headlines than actual jobs.
      

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

I don't want to blow my own trumpet but...

        
The Daily Post: following where the Druid leads

Earlier this week the Daily Post picked up on the Druid's blogpost detailing how Albert Owen had misled Anglesey voters on how much investment was coming to RAF Valley; today the Daily Post once again follows where the Druid led.

The Druid first pointed out that a Hung Parliament could kill Wylfa B on March 20th; I repeated this message on March 30th, and then again last Friday. Now the same story merits a double page spread in today's Daily Post.

In today's 'Comment Page' the Daily Post congratulates itself by telling readers, "If you want full, informed election coverage and how it affects North Wales - stick with the Daily Post."  However if you want sharper coverage a full month before the Daily Post even notices - stick with The Druid!
    

Photo of the Day (Bigoted face-palm edition)

    
screen-grab of Gordon Brown on Radio 2 listening to a playback of himself calling a pensioner a "bigoted woman".


Never mind photo of the day - this is the photo of the whole campaign as far as the Druid is concerned.
    
UPDATE: The BBC's Nick Robinson has just said:

“For those of us that have known Gordon Brown for many years, what we have just seen is no huge surprise I have to say.”
       

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Treaddur Bay Business Hustings Update

    
The Druid's spies are everywhere. And tonight they were at the Hustings held by the Federation of Small Businesses in the Treaddur Bay Hotel. One of them just called with the latest Ynys Môn election gossip:

  • Albert Owen was berated by the assembled small business owners for Labour's planned National Insurance rise (definitely a tax on jobs according to a show of hands by those present) and also for this year's rise in Business Rates. The manager of Tre Ysgawen Hall revealed to gasps throughout the room how his rates had gone up from around £25,000 to £75,000 a year. Albert Owen tried to claim that the majority of Welsh businesses had seen their rates fall but was shouted down by the audience. Consequently he spent the majority of the hustings sat back in his seat, hands folded defensively, staring into space.
  • Dylan Rees told the assembled entrepreneurs that it was incorrect to say that he has no business experience (he's obviously been reading the Druid). No, no, he said, as a Police Inspector he had to look after 40 officers, nine patrol cars, and deal with reams of paperwork - so it was just like running a company. The Druid begs to differ - there's a big difference between being a 'manager' and having the business acumen to develop products or services, find a market, take a financial risk, and make sales to meet a payroll. Its the business vision we need on Anglesey - not managerial experience of shuffling paperwork around for police cars.
  • The Lib Dems' Matt Wood admitted that the Lib Dems were against nuclear power and Wylfa B. Apparently he had to as the moderator pointed out it was Lib Dem policy before asking him to speak. Strangely enough for a centre-left candidate he also apparently waffled on a lot about  Reaganomics.
  • Apparently both Peter Rogers and the Conservative candidate, Anthony Ridge-Newman, talked with passion and were well received by the audience. Rogers was critical about IOACC's lack of a Local Development Plan (LDP) and the consequent "jobs which are locked-up in council filing cabinets". Ridge-Newman told the audience how a hung parliament would result in the scrapping of Wylfa B as this would be the price of the Lib Dems support in the event of a coalition government.

And the most astounding political revelation of the night?

Dylan Rees wears Sarkozy-style platform shoes...
         

Archive: How to start solving the problems at Anglesey County Council

        
Unfortunately I'm quite busy today and don't have any time to write. However considering the recent interest (and comment explosion!) on this blog regarding the problems at Anglesey Council I hope you will all forgive me if I repost something I originally wrote a month ago. Over the past week the council has come in for a serious bashing from commenters so perhaps the following post will move the discussion forward onto how best to start solving the problems which currently beset the council...

How to start solving the problems at Anglesey County Council
(first posted March 23, 2010)

We all know that despite the myriad economic and social problems on the Island, Anglesey County Council is "bedevilled by personality driven, petty parochial vindictive factional infighting", as David Bowles the Managing Director said recently. Things are so bad that the Welsh Assembly has warned the Council as recently as last month that that it is in the "Last Chance Saloon" and faces being taken over from Cardiff unless things improve.

But what can actually be done to turn around the situation? Here are the Druid's top three suggestions:

(1) Opaque groupings

Below is a list of all the political groups in which councillors sit at the Council:

  • Original Independent / Annibynnol Gwreiddiol (17 councillors)
  • Plaid Cymru (8 councillors)
  • Labour (5 councillors)
  • Anglesey Forward / Môn Ymlaen (3 councillors)
  • Menai Group / Grŵp Menai (3 councillors)
  • Unaffiliated (4 councillors)

Hands up who knows what the Original Independent's stance is on economic development or education? Or how about Anglesey Forward's policies on social care? Or how about what Menai Group thinks about the building of Wylfa B?

Any idea? No, me neither - yet councillors for those three groups plus the Unafilliateds make up almost 70% of the council. Put another way: we, the residents of Anglesey, have no idea what 70% of our  councillors actually stand for. None of these groups publish a clear manifesto of aspirations for the Island and policies to achieve those goals. None of these groups even have so much as a website.

Accordingly, without knowing what each Independent councillor actually believes or the policies he/she would like to see implemented, how can we Anglesey residents (a) make informed decisions about which candidate to vote for during county council elections? and (b) judge whether elected councillors have achieved the aims that they set for themselves? The answer is: we can't.

Remedy:  Councillors and their Political Groups must make it absolutely clear to Anglesey voters what their aims and policies are so that we can make informed voting choices and then hold them to account afterwards.


(2) Too many Independents and no party discipline

As we noted above the majority of councillors, with the exception of those representing Plaid Cymru and Labour, are Independents sitting in various opaque groups. As they are elected as Independents they are effectively beholden to nobody but themselves and are certainly not constrained by any kind of 'party discipline'. As a result they are free to behave pretty much as they please - leading to the myriad problems of ill discipline we are currently witnessing at the council (and blogged about here, here, here andhere for example).

By all accounts the Council Leader Clive McGregor is an honest man doing his very best to move things in the right direction - but his biggest problem is that because there are 27 Independents councillors his task is like trying to herd cats, i.e. almost impossible. What we need are stronger political parties imposing tighter discipline on their members.

Remedy: Either (a) the groups we mentioned above start to behave like proper political parties by issuing manifestos and instilling party discipline onto their members; or (b) the other big parties need to up their game. There are actually already 2 Conservative councillors and 2 Lib Dem councillors on the Council (although they both sit with the Original Independent grouping) - they need to find and field more candidates at the council elections and then sit according to their party lines as Plaid and Labour already do.


(3) Is it time for a 'good governance' movement in Anglesey?

Of course there is no chance of either of the above remedies happening unless there is some kind of 'stick' to prod existing councillors and groupings into taking action. The best 'stick' will always be the threat of losing their positions (and their generous allowances) if they don't start making the changes that Anglesey's voters demand.

Remedy: Perhaps it is time for those residents who are fed up with the antics of our current crop of councillors to start a 'good governance' movement and stand for election under a good governance banner in the next Council elections in May 2012. If enough people were found to stand in most wards (or even if there was a threat of that) you can be sure that it would certainly 'focus the minds' of our existing councillors.

So those are the Druid's top three remedies for the current situation. I'm sure there are many more so if you have other suggestions or proposals by all means post them in comments.
    

Quote of the Day (Keynesian edition)


      
The Independent's John Rentoul writes:

"This is a bizarre feature of this election campaign (one of many): that the central economic argument is over a net £6bn tightening. What the ghost of John Maynard Keynes would have made of £6bn in an economy of £1,700bn is unclear. It is the sort of sum that gets lost down the back of the Office for National Statistics sofa without anyone noticing; and it is twice what Brown "cut out of the economy" in January this year when he put VAT back up from 15 to 17.5 per cent."
        

Monday, 26 April 2010

Albert Owen: I'm comfortable with lying to Anglesey Residents

    
Last week the Druid exposed how our sitting MP, Labour's Albert Owen, has made false claims on his latest election leaflets about the amount of funding which RAF Valley is receiving. It appears that the local press has picked up on my post as today's Daily Post contains this extract:

"The Defence secretary said the Government has made a £635m commitment to RAF Valley by backing it to lead fighter jet training.
But this £635m figure has come under scrutiny with claims it is misleading as the contract to Ascent is for the entire UK Military Flying Training System, which is not solely based at Valley.
But Mr Owen, who used the figure on election leaflets, said: “This is the only figure available and Valley will have the main tranche of that funding. I am comfortable with using this figure.”
In stating that he is using the £635 million figure because it is the "only figure available", Albert Owen is in effect tacitly acknowledging that is is incorrect. Furthermore the Ministry of Defence press release announcing this deal was dated 3rd June 2008 - almost two years ago. Surely over the space of two years Albert Owen could have been able to obtain from the MoD a more accurate figure on how much of the £635 million would actually be spent at RAF Valley? He's a member of the ruling Labour government after all.

In conclusion what Albert Owen is effectively saying is: "I am comfortable with lying to Anglesey residents in order to get re-elected”.
      

Why Wales is the "least competitive" region in the UK

  
The below chart shows state spending as a percentage of GDP in the UK regions compared to a selection of OECD member countries:

click to enlarge 
(chart source: coffee house blog)

As you can see, state spending as a percentage of GDP in Wales is currently running at almost 70% - i.e. of every £10 spent in Wales, £7 is spent by the Government. This is approximately 25 percentage points above the OECD average and 20 percentage points above the Euro average. More remarkable still is the fact that Wales also eclipses both Sweden and Denmark - standard bearers of the Nordic big government model (with corresponding big taxes).

The consequences of having an over-large state sector in Wales is that the majority of resources (both financial and in terms of young talent) get sucked up by the public sector thus stunting private sector growth. We should therefore not be surprised when Wales is named as "the least competitive" region in the UK - as it was just last week by the UK Competitiveness Index.

This problem is compounded when you consider that we are increasingly governed by people who have had no private sector/wealth creating experience at all. The below chart shows the backgrounds of the Assembly Members who make up the current ruling Labour/Plaid Cymru coalition before they went into politics:

click to enlarge

Only a paltry 13% of Labour/Plaid Cymru AMs have ever worked in the wealth creating part of the economy (You can see more details here). Policies will of necessity reflect the beliefs, value systems and experience of the politicians who formulate and vote for them - therefore, when you consider the background of our legislators, the answer to any problem will always be more public spending thus making us even more uncompetitive as a nation.
    

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Cllr Barrie Durkin's Press Release (Updated)

  
Barrie Durkin - one of the county councillors who was recently ejected from the Original Independents group for "obstructing the council's recovery" - has released the following Press Release. As it is already in the public domain it is reproduced here without comment.
BARRIE DURKIN Press Release         
Notwithstanding the allegations contained within this document, it is beyond me why somebody who gives his primary address as Abergwyngregyn is a County Councillor on Anglesey.
  
UPDATE: Based on advice from some commenters below I have redacted the name of one person named by Barrie Durkin in his above press release. The purpose of this blog is not to defame people or spread scurrilous rumours - rather it is to try to marshall the provable facts and apply light where previously there has been none. I hope that commenters will also be courteous enough to take the utmost care to avoid making unfounded or un-provable allegations about certain persons or organisations.
    

Friday, 23 April 2010

(Non) Quote of the Day

        
One of Gordon Brown's pre-prepared (but thankfully unused) jibes for use in last night's Debate:

"You can phone a friend, you can ask the audience, you can go 50-50 with Nick."

How do I know? See this sneaky little behind the scenes photo:

click to enlarge
      

What effect will the Lib Dem surge have on Ynys Môn? (updated)

      
Having just listened to BBC Radio Wales's phone-in debate from Holyhead featuring the Anglesey parliamentary candidates, I can tell you exactly who lost the debate: the Lib Dems.

Why? Because despite all the other candidates (Albert Owen, Anthony Ridge-Newman, Peter Rogers, and Dylan Rees) taking part, the Lib Dems' PPC Matt Wood was the only one not present. His agent, Aled Morris Jones, ably filled-in for him - but we are not able to vote for Aled Morris Jones. What could be more important for a credible candidate than debating the other parties and reaching thousands of electors on the Island is a mystery to me. But then it appears that Matt Wood is not a credible candidate. My spies at the Beaumaris Hustings last week reported that Matt was the weakest debater and the only candidate to leave immediately after the hustings and not engage the audience in conversation afterwards. Perhaps he had to leave early in order to drive back to his home in St Asaph? After all, according to Ynys Môn Lib Dems website, Matt's contact email is listed as: valeofclwydlibdems@googlemail.com! And, whilst we are at it, the Lib Dems are also the only party to have an Ynys Môn Association with an address in Cardiff…

And it is precisely local issues like this which will eventually blunt the progress the Lib Dems have made recently in national voting intention polls. People may like that nice Mr Clegg off the telly; but, crucially, they can't vote for him - they have to vote for local candidates, like the elusive Matt Wood, who aren't actually very good.

And then, leaving behind personalities, we have the problem of Lib Dem policies. The Lib Dems are emphatically opposed to nuclear power - not a policy which is likely to appeal to the majority of Anglesey voters who recognise that Wylfa B is crucial to this Island's future (incidentally the only letter from Matt Wood which I have seen published in the local press was actually all about Energy Policy - it was quite a long letter and astonishingly failed to mention once that the Lib Dems are opposed to nuclear power - I wonder why that might be? Doesn't sound like the new transparent politics which Clegg is always going on about, does it?).

Of course there are few constituencies like Anglesey where the majority of residents support the building of a nuclear powerstation - but there are other policies too which are unlikely to appeal to rural voters. For instance, in an attempt to promote the use of public transport the Lib Dems propose to charge drivers between 8p and 12p for every mile they travel on roads. That might seem like a good idea in cities, but it will wreak havoc in places like Anglesey and elsewhere in North Wales where there are no credible alternatives to travelling by car.

These are just two examples - there are many more. At the last general election on Anglesey the Lib Dems polled only around 2,500 votes out of a total of 35,000 cast. Because their candidate here is so weak and because their policies are unlikely to attract large support on Anglesey, I would predict that despite the large poll leap the Lib Dems are enjoying nationally, they will struggle to attract more than 3,000 votes here on Anglesey. The extra 500 votes they may pick up will probably come evenly from all the other parties (perhaps disproportionately affecting Plaid Cymru slightly more as they have missed out from not participating in the Leaders TV Debates) and will therefore not have a major impact on the result.

Conclusion: Although the national Lib Dem poll surge will not affect the result either way here in Ynys Môn, the fact that nationally they may do much better than previously predicted makes the likelihood of a hung parliament much more likely. A hung parliament will have disastrous consequences for Anglesey as the Lib Dems will hold the balance of power and will make the abandonment of nuclear power a condition of their support. Make no mistake this WILL kill Wylfa B.
      
UPDATE: Just to underline my point that the Lib Dem candidate isn't really taking Ynys Môn very seriously see the below quick snap of the postal ballot for Anglesey. As you can see, Matt Wood's address is given as being in the Vale of Clwyd constituency...

        
UPDATE 2: It appears that absentee Lib Dem candidates are a common theme here in North Wales. BlogMenai has just published the postal ballot form for our adjacent constituency of Arfon showing that the Lib Dem candidate there has an address in Acton, West London!
         

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Quote of the Day (Incorrect or misinformed edition)

        
The Plaid Cymru-supporting 'Welsh Ramblings' blog writes:


"Welsh Ramblings deeply opposes the political intentions of the blog "The Druid: Fighting For Anglesey". The Druid's arguments must be undermined and contested, as they are quite frequently incorrect or misinformed."

Just for the record: I am proud to be considered "frequently incorrect or misinformed" by a blog which celebrates the Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez, and ponders what lessons Wales can learn from that anti-democratic, tin-pot bully. As far as I'm concerned, I totally agree with the Cynical Dragon.
      

Dylan Rees can't do basic arithmetic (yet has an economic recovery package for Ynys Môn)

        
With electoral pamphlets arriving from both Labour and Plaid Cymru this week, the Druid is spoilt for choice when it comes to fact checking the various claims being hurled at Anglesey voters (see my earlier post on Albert Owen's RAF Valley claims for instance).

Anyway, for Plaid Cymru the following claim on page 3 of Dylan Rees's 'Herald' pamphlet jumped out at me:

"Fair funding for Wales - Plaid will campaign for the implementation of the Holtham report which found that Wales is underfunded by £300 million a year (that's a loss of £2,900 per person on Anglesey!)"

Its true that Jerry Holtham calculated that Wales is relatively underfunded by £300 million pounds a year - but Dylan Rees's calculation that this represents a loss of £2,900 per person on Anglesey is complete nonsense.

According to the latest 2008 estimate, the population of Wales is 3,004,600. This means that the £300 million underfunding represents a loss of £99.85 for every person in Wales.

Even if the £300 million underfunding was only related to Anglesey - which is obviously absurd - then with a population of 69,000 people, the figure would be a loss of £4,347 per person on Anglesey, not the £2,900 claimed by Rees.

Conclusion: Dylan Rees can't add up. Yet on the front page of the Herald he boasts that he has an Economic Recovery Plan for Ynys Môn... 

...Frankly I wouldn't give up the day job, Dylan.
      

"Team Leader" Albert Owen makes false claims over RAF Valley

  
In Albert Owen's election leaflet delivered throughout the Island this week you will find the following claim:

ALBERT - THE TEAM LEADER HAS DELIVERED TO:
Secure new investment (£635 million) in RAF Valley by creating new jobs now and for the future in fast jet training and the Search and Rescue HQ

Wow, you might think, £635 million! The self-styled "Team Leader" has really delivered for us in securing such vast funding for RAF Valley. After all £635 million is 13 times larger even than the rescue package of £48 million that the Government came up with in its failed attempt to stop the closure of Anglesey Aluminium. Well done, Albert - right?

Wrong.

The truth is that RAF Valley has not received and will not receive £635 million, or anything like it. As per this press release from the Ministry of Defence, the £635 million is the entire budget, spread across 25 years, for running the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS). The money which Albert claims will be used exclusively in RAF Valley will actually be used in multiple locations across the UK for the provision of :

  • Elementary Flying Training
  • Basic Flying Training
  • Fast Jet Training
  • Rotary Wing Training
  • Multi Engine Training 
  • Rear Crew Training

Of which only Fast Jet training is actually operated from RAF Valley. Of course this is still good news for Anglesey and there have been some temporary jobs created at RAF Valley building classrooms and a hangar - but it is a far, far cry from the £635 million of investment which "Team Leader" Albert Owen is claiming credit for delivering.

Which leads us to some interesting questions:

(a) Did Albert Owen know that the £635 million was not really all for RAF Valley but anyway included the figure in his election leaflet? or

(b) Did Albert Owen really believe that the full £635 million was coming to RAF Valley?

Whichever is the case, neither alternative shows Albert Owen in a good light. Either he is guilty of trying to misinform us, or he is clueless about things happening on the Island he represents despite trying to claim credit and an electoral advantage from them.

The final question: what steps will Albert Owen now take - two weeks before the General Election - to retract this claim and provide an accurate picture to Anglesey voters?
  

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Albert Owen and the 'Lesser Spotted Brown'

    
BBC Newsnight reporter, Michael Crick, has been leading a nationwide hunt for the extremely rare 'Lesser Spotted Brown' - in other words, a Labour constituency leaflet with a photo of Gordon Brown on it. So far he has only found three examples: one in Cambridge, one in Bournemouth West and one in the Prime Minister's own constituency of Kirkcaldy! It appears that Labour candidates standing in the remaining 600+ constituencies believe that associating themselves with Gordon Brown is so toxic to their election chances that they have studiously avoided having any image of their Leader on their leaflets.

Rejoice therefore as the Druid has discovered another sighting of the 'Lesser Spotted Brown' on our own Anglesey. Albert Owen's leaflet - delivered throughout the Island this week - has a photo of both Gordon Brown and Albert grinning inanely whilst visting RAF Valley. Does Albert really think that associating himself with Gordon Brown will shore up his extremely precarious electoral position on Ynys Mon? Is Albert right and the other 600+ Labour candidates wrong? 

P.S. I have a much more substantial story about Albert Owen for tomorrow. Watch this space...
      

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Support democracy in Ynys Môn

        
If you read this blog you must already be interested in current affairs and politics on Anglesey. Accordingly you may also be interested in attending the remaining two election hustings to be held on Anglesey where you will have a chance to see all the candidates in action and ask them questions:

  • Tuesday, 27th April @ 7pm - Trearddur Bay Hotel / Topic: Business Hustings
  • Thursday, 29th April @ 7pm - Llangefni - Bull Hotel / Sponsor: NFU/FUW / Topic: Agriculture

BBC Wales will also be holding a radio Phone-in from Holyhead at Noon on Friday, 23rd April - Topic: Law and Order. Tune in!

One of the reasons behind writing this blog is to highlight the current perilous state of Anglesey. If, like the Druid, you are interested in the future of our Island - do make an effort to attend the hustings and evaluate all the candidates standing for election.
      

Monday, 19 April 2010

Quote of the Day (Greased Pig edition)

    
The Independent's Bruce Anderson writes:

"Chris Patten once said that trying to argue with Liberals was a hazardous business: a bit like insulting the vicar and then agreeing to wrestle with the greased pig at the village fête."

With Clegg-mania now sweeping the country, a number of commenters have asked what this could mean for the election here in Anglesey. A very good question - and one which Druid will return to in a new post shortly. Watch this space!
    

Albert Owen struggling with reality once again

        
The Druid's spies in Beaumaris tell him that during Friday night's MENCAP-sponsored election hustings on disability issues held in the Beaumaris Leisure Centre, our sitting MP Albert Owen was once again struggling to come to terms with reality.

Apparently following an introductory statement by the Conservative candidate, Anthony Ridge-Newman, which touched on the fact that Anglesey is poorest county in the UK, Albert Owen stormily interjected:

"Lets get one thing straight: Anglesey is not the poorest county in the UK and I'm fed up of people running this Island down"

This is the kind of reality-busting outburst we have gotten used to from Albert (see here, here and here for examples) who would clearly prefer us to believe him rather than the evidence of our own eyes (or even the National Statistics Office). So for the benefit of Albert Owen, here is the truth about Anglesey:

  • A GDP per head of only half of the UK average thus making it officially the poorest county in the UK according to the Office of National Statistics (pdf);
  • Equivalent to some of the poorest parts of Poland in a recent OECD report;
  • The lowest GVA per head in Wales at just 53% of the UK’s average; 
  • A dwindling private sector following the closures of Anglesey Aluminium, Octel, MEM/Eaton, Peboc and many others;
  • A rising unemployment rate currently standing at 5.8%; 
  • An economic inactivity rate of 25.1%; 

So, Albert, please understand that pointing out the facts is not "running this Island down". Running the Island down is what happens when our elected representatives (including our MP, our AM and our Councillors) neglect the Island due to either laziness, incompetence, self-interest, mal-administration or any combination of these.

As I have written before: the problem with this kind of fantasy politics from Albert is not only is it deceptive towards voters, it also prevents the formulation of good policy. If you are so invested in your fantasy and refuse to accept the reality, then it follows that you cannot make policy to solve real problems. And that is a tragedy not only for the Albert Owen but for us all. 
         

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Photoshop Campaign

  
Forget Twitter and Facebook and all the other nonsense we have been hearing about how social media will play a crucial role in this, the first ever "digital election". As far as the Druid is concerned it is not the social media sites which have set this campaign apart from pervious ones - its been the democratisation of Photoshop which has made the most significant difference. We have seen more political posters released over a shorter period of time than in any previous campaign - and the best ones have been knocked together on Photoshop only hours after the events which have inspired them. More importantly they have been made by both the political parties themselves and also - and most significantly - by their armies of supporters (although Labour's attempt to formally 'crowdsource' a poster from its grassroots backfired spectacularly). Just as a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, a relevant and witty poster is worth tens of thousands of leaflets stuffed through letter boxes.

The following two have been the Druid's favourites so far. They are both from the Conservatives - make of that what you will.



I for one and am looking forward to see what delights of Photoshop will spring forth from all the Parties as the campaign continues... (and wouldn't it be nice to have some Anglesey-specific one too? There must be somebody on the island with Photoshop?).
      

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Obstructive Councillors finally named and shamed

      
The Daily Post yesterday finally confirms what has remained unspoken until now - that the two councillors expelled from the Original Independents grouping in Early March are part of the "small minority" of "obstructive" councillors that we have been hearing so much about. The two councillors effectively named and shamed are:

  • Elwyn Schofield (representing Llanerch-y-medd)
  • Barrie Durkin (representing Llanbedrgoch)

Furthermore it appears that an agreement has been put in place between the various groups that these two councillors should remain isolated and not be admitted to join any other groupings. The Recovery Board has also warned them that should they attempt to form a new group it will be a "highly retrograde step".

From what I hear, in addition to a few smaller fish, there is still one other "obstructive" senior councillor - representing a ward on the North of the Island - who is yet to be named and shamed. Accordngly the Druid hopes that we will see at least one more expulsion from the Original Independents over the coming months.
  

Friday, 16 April 2010

Plaid Cymru & Peter Rogers - the saga continues

            
As per the Druid's post of last night, today's Daily Post does indeed contain a plea from Plaid's Ynys Môn candidate, Dylan Rees, for the Public Services Ombudsman to complete his inquiry as soon as possible (not online for some reason):

"I believe the electorate of Ynys Môn have the right to know whether Peter Rogers has done anything wrong and I urge the ombudsman to complete his inquiries as soon as possible so that the findings can be released before the general election"

Peter Rogers also responds in the Daily Post (not online):

"It is appalling Plaid Cymru have asked for the investigation to be rushed because of the election. This has to follow its proper course with the Ombudsman. I have been elated about the response of my supporters to this, they have really rallied around me. They are equally appalled by Plaid's tactics. As a former policeman Mr Rees should know better than to comment on matters like this while they are still in progress"

It is widely thought that Peter Rogers won just enough support amongst Anglesey's farmers to deny Plaid Cymru a victory at the 2005 general election - thus allowing Labour's Albert Owen to win the seat with a majority of just over 1000 votes. The events of the last couple of days prove that Plaid Cymru are fearful that another strong showing from Peter Rogers may once again rob them of a victory in Ynys Môn. They are right to be worried: their candidate is widely thought, even amongst Plaid supporters, to be weak (his latest press release demanding that David Cameron apologises for leaving Anglesey off the infamous tea towel is a good example of his vacuousness).

Plaid Cymru have consistently tried to present themselves during this election as an honest local alternative to the "same old parties, same old politics" of the "London parties". In that case they would show the Ynys Môn electorate more respect if they tried to win this election with their policies and not by desperately trying to have another candidate disqualified.
    

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Assassination threats, old photos and other dirty tactics (updated)

An attendee of Peter Rogers' campaign launch tonight kindly phoned the Druid to report on the events of the evening. Apparently the meeting was well attended by over 60 or more people and served up some interesting revelations:

  • It was revealed that the reason why Peter Rogers is being investigated by the Public Services Ombudsman is because an unnamed County Councillor has apparently baselessly accused Peter Rogers of threatening to "assassinate" him
  • Peter believes that the news of this investigation was purposely leaked to the media by "political opponents" in order to undermine him
  • A local newspaper (the Daily Post?) will apparently carry a letter tomorrow from Plaid Cymru's candidate, Dylan Rees, demanding that the Ombudsman adjudicates on the complaints against Peter Rogers prior to the election in the hope that he (Peter Rogers) will be disqualified from standing
  • On top of all this - and perhaps the most underhand - is the relevation that apparently Plaid Cymru have complained to the BBC that the photo they have of Peter Rogers is too old and that a new one should be used - presumably in the hope that a post heart-op Peter Rogers will look more infirm in the photo

Firstly, the Druid personally finds it hard to believe that a 70 year old man recently out of hospital following a serious heart operation would "threaten to assassinate" anyone. I wonder how much money is being wasted by both the Police and Public Services Ombudsman investigating this allegation?

Secondly, judging by Peter's reported remarks this evening, Plaid Cymru are trying to make as much political capital out of this as possible. For instance we already know from yesterday's news reports that whilst all other political parties contesting Anglesey in the general election declined to comment on the news, only Plaid Cymru felt the need to put the boot in. Here's an extract:

"John Wyn Jones, press officer for Plaid Cymru Ynys Môn, speaking on behalf of the party's parliamentary candidate Dylan Rees, said "Mr Rogers has proved to be a politician who is unable to work with other people, whether it be the Conservative party or his colleagues in local government. This isolation means that he is unable to deliver for the people he represents."

Perhaps this is to be expected in the rough and tumble of a general election - however to my mind its very, very dirty indeed to purposefully complain to the media that they must update the photo they have of a candidate recently released from hospital following a heart operation. If it is true Plaid Cymru should be totally ashamed of themselves.
    
UPDATE: My informant who attended the above event may have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick. A comment by Cllr Barrie Durkin on this blog states:

"Peter Rogers was only at the police station, in support of the arrested person who made the threats, as he was one one of Peter Rogers constituents. 
The Complaint by the Police Authority about Peter relates solely to his alleged behaviour whilst at the Police Station. and nothing else.
Any suggestion that he made any sort of threat to assassinate anyone is untrue."

If this is the case, the Druid is happy to put the record straight.  

Quote of the Day (Saturnine edition)

    
Neil Kinnock speaking about Gordon Brown yesterday:

The fact is Gordon, I remember nearly 30 years ago when he had the ladies swooning, when he was a very sort of saturnine young man, descending from Scotland and hugely attractive. The years have dealt quite kindly with him...

In case you're wondering what 'saturnine' means, here's google's definition:

  • bitter or scornful; "the face was saturnine and swarthy, and the sensual lips...twisted with disdain"- Oscar Wilde
  • dark: showing a brooding ill humor; "a dark scowl"; "the proverbially dour New England Puritan"; "a glum, hopeless shrug"; "he sat in moody silence"; "a morose and unsociable manner"; "a saturnine, almost misanthropic young genius"- Bruce Bliven; "a sour temper"; "a sullen crowd" 

Peter Rogers to launch general election campaign tonight

        
Despite the fact that he is being investigated by the Public Services Ombudsman being leaked to the press yesterday, Peter Rogers will this evening officially launch his general election campaign in Gaerwen. More to follow...
  

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

++ Peter Rogers being investigated by Public Services Ombudsman ++

    
From BBC News:
  
A parliamentary candidate in Ynys Môn is being investigated by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales after a complaint by North Wales Police.
Peter Rogers, an independent, is also a local councillor and represents Anglesey council on North Wales Police Authority.
The complaint follows an incident at Holyhead Police station when Mr Rogers accompanied a constituent.
Mr Rogers has confirmed that he has no plans to stand down as a candidate.
He has also threatened to make an official complaint of his own about the way the police were dealing with the matter.
Mr Rogers told BBC Wales: "I'm disappointed that this information has been leaked to the media at a time when I'm a candidate in the election.
No comment
"The ombudsman must be allowed to conduct his investigation without being hampered by politically motivated leaks."
A spokesperson for Anglesey council said: "We can confirm that a complaint has been made by North Wales Police regarding Councillor Peter Rogers and that the ombudsman is investigating the matter."
A spokesman for North Wales Police authority said: "We can confirm that a complaint is being considered by the ombudsman."
The ombudsman's office confirmed that they have received a complaint about Mr Rogers and are currently investigating.
Albert Owen, the Labour parliamentary candidate in the Ynys Môn constituency, said: "I don't know the details and have no comment to make"
John Wyn Jones, press officer for Plaid Cymru Ynys Môn, speaking on behalf of the party's parliamentary candidate Dylan Rees, said "Mr Rogers has proved to be a politician who is unable to work with other people, whether it be the Conservative party or his colleagues in local government.
"This isolation means that he is unable to deliver for the people he represents."
A Conservative party spokesman said: "This a matter for Mr Rogers, North Wales Police and the Public Services Ombudsman. It would not be appropriate to comment at this stage."
        

Tea Towel of the Day

  
Yes, not only does the Druid do "Quotes of the Day", "Photos of the Day", and "Tweets of the Day" - I also now do a nice line in "Tea Towels of the Day" too.

BBC Wales's Betsan Powys spotted it first, but it appears questions are being asked of the Welsh Conservatives about why Anglesey isn't "all in this together" with the rest of the country on this tea towel (left) they are selling.

Does this mean Anglesey is to be spared the cuts and tax rises we all know are coming after the election to reduce the immense deficit this Labour government has racked up? Yeah, thought not.
       

Plaid's Elfyn Llwyd says there will NOT be a hung parliament

  
On a radio interview yesterday Plaid Cymru's parliamentary group leader, Elfyn Llwyd, said:

"Do we know for example if it's going to be a balanced parliament? I rather doubt whether it is."

This is quite astonishing as Plaid Cymru's entire pitch to the Welsh electorate for this general election has been built around presenting themselves as potential power brokers in the event of a hung parliament and therefore somehow getting a better deal for Wales. Now it appears that their leading man in Westminster doesn't even believe that a hung parliament is likely.

The Druid has repeatedly argued (here and here for example) that, even in the event of this election producing a hung parliament, the probability of either a Labour or Conservative minority government needing Plaid Cymru votes are remote. This is in contrast to how the issue is normally presented by Plaid Cymru - for instance here is Dylan Rees, Plaid's Ynys Môn candidate, in a letter to the Daily Post:

[T]his general election is very likely to produce a hung parliament. In that event Plaid Cymru will have an even more influential role to play as it seeks to win a fairer deal for the people of Wales.

In other words he makes it sound as if it is a fact: "In a hung parliament Plaid Cymru WILL have a more influential role" - when in reality it is no more than a remote possibility. Now that Elfyn Llwyd has said that he doesn't even think there will be a hung parliament I wonder what reasons Dylan Rees will now give to Anglesey voters to elect him? I personally can't think of any.
        

Tweet of the Day (early bird edition)

    
      

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Anglesey: Private Sector down 2,100 jobs since 2001

    
Dylan Jones-Evans, Director of Research and Innovation at the University of Wales and Chairman of the Welsh Conservatives' Economic Commission, has left the following very interesting comment on this blog today:

Having just completed an a analysis of public and private sector employment on Anglesey during the recession, you may be interested to note that during the recession, private sector employment on Ynys Mon went down by 5.7 per cent. 
In contrast, public sector employment increased by 2.9 per cent.
Since 2001, there has been a decrease of 2,100 in private sector employment on Anglesey and the proportion of those employed in the private sector has decreased from 74 per cent of those employed on the island to 67 per cent.
Those are the facts. Interpret them how you will. 

Anglesey's long-term future can only be secured by having a prosperous and thriving private sector. However, as Dylan Jones-Evans' figures above show, since 2001 the number of private sector jobs on Ynys Mon have reduced by a staggering 2,100 jobs. Thats the equivalent of the entire population of Beaumaris - a huge amount for an Island of this size! We better all hope that Wylfa B becomes a reality...
     

Monday, 12 April 2010

How Llangefni's "Three Towns Fund" cash should be spent (updated)

    
The Holyhead & Anglesey Mail has a very troubling story this week about how Anglesey County Councillors are planning to spend Llangefni's £1.8m slice of the Three Towns Fund. This money, provided by the European Regional Development Fund, the Welsh Assembly's Mon a Menai programme, the Lottery and Anglesey County Council's own coffers, is supposed to spent on projects which:

  • create jobs
  • win back shoppers to town centres
  • and build on tourism projects
However, the Council have decided to use the majority of the money earmarked for Llangefni (£1.4m)  to fund Menter Môn's plans to turn the Llangefni Town Hall into offices for themselves and the volunteer service providers, Medrwn Môn. The idea being that the upper floors (which used to house a theatre) are transformed into offices, whilst the ground floor is made into a multipurpose space which could host exhibitions and other events.

Before I go on I should point out that as far as the Druid is concerned Menter Môn does a fantastic job and this post should in no way be seen as being critical of them. However,  considering the aims of the fund set out above, is this really the best use the Council could find for the money?

  • Menter Môn already have offices in Llangefni (behind the Council buildings) - so effectively one organisation already present in Llangefni is going to move to another part of Llangefni. Accordingly there is no net impact on jobs in Llangefni.
  • As Menter Môn's employees already presumably shop in Llangefni, it is difficult to see how this will deliver any more shoppers to Llangefni's town shops.
  • Do you often hear Llangefni residents say, "you know what Llangefni needs? More office space, thats what". No? Neither do I.

Of course its easy to criticise, and as Gerallt Llywelyn, the Menter Môn CEO says in the article, "we have come up with a vision for the town hall when no-one else would come forward". Accordingly, here is the Druid's advice to the Council on how the money should have been spent:


  • The very first thing that I would urge the Council to do would be to look at rectifying the incredibly shortsighted decision they made years ago to house the Oriel Môn so far outside the centre of Llangefni. Its current position next to the Public Golf Course means that the shops of Llangefni enjoy no benefit from its presence as it is just too far for Oriel visitors to walk into the town centre. People come in cars and leave in cars without spending any time in Llangefni itself. What a ridiculous own goal by the Council considering that the natural location for the Oriel would have been inside the defunct town hall located slap-band in the town centre. I appreciate that after all the money the council have lavished on it, it would take a great deal more than £1.8m to bring the Oriel to the town hall, but it's impossible to write about what should be done in Llangefni without mentioning this characteristically backward decision by the council.
  • The key to Llangefni's future actually lies in its past. As the road signs when you enter the town say, Llangefni is a "Market Town" - this is what Llangefni's past success was built on and what it should also capitalise on now. If the town hall cannot be repurposed to house the Oriel collection, then the ground floor should be refitted so that it can serve as an enclosed market. The bustling Thursday markets in Llangefni used to bring in visitors from all over the island which benefitted both the market traders and also the local shops - now the current market is a shadow of its former self. Making a dedicated market area and promoting not just the traditional Thursday market, but also holding other specialist markets on different days of the week - think farmer's markets, antiques markets, etc - would be a sustainable investment which would keep on giving to the town. 
The problem as always with Anglesey County Council is not so much a lack of money, but a lack of vision. The Druid's modest proposal above would not take a large amount of money, would fullfil all three aims of the Three Towns Fund, and would make a great deal of difference to the town if promoted and marketed in the right way - much more than just blowing the money building a set of offices.
       

UPDATE: An anonymous commenter below feels this is proof of Ieuan Wyn Jones delivering for Anglesey. I couldn't disagree more and offer this reply: 

"This would be the Three Towns Fund money supplied by the Welsh Assembly Goverment then."

No, as I wrote at the top of my post, the WAG only supplies a portion of the money. The rest comes from the EU, the Lottery, and Anglesey County Council. 

"Seems like Ieuan Wyn Jones can deliver for the island after all. No mention of it in your post, though Druid." 

You call this delivering? Firstly, as I just pointed out, only a portion of the money came from WAG; Secondly, despite Anglesey being officially the poorest county in the UK with a GVA per head of just 53% of the UK's average, only £8 million has been allocated for regenerating the Island as part of the Three Towns Fund. Compare this to the £100 million of European funding that the Welsh Assembly recently injected into the much more prosperous area of Swansea - with a much higher GVA per head figure than Anglesey (7% above the all-Wales level but 19% below the UK average). To add insult to injury, the Swansea announcement came on almost the very day that Anglesey Aluminium was closing with a loss of 450 jobs. Is being tossed scraps from the table your definition of IWJ 'delivering for the island'? Because it isn't mine. For more info from an impartial source, see this for example.

"The lack of objectivity in this blog is getting quite farcical. Why don't you just come out for the Tories and be done with it? At least your pretence at being independant could then be seen for what it is - a complete nonsense." 

I'm afraid that the lack of objectivity is being shown by yourself if this is the best you can point to show us that 23 years of Ieuan Wyn Jones has been good to the Island.