Monday, 28 February 2011

'Anglesey Onion': The gift that keeps on giving

Anglesey County Council leader Clive McGregor was interviewed live on air this afternoon by Simon Mayo on BBC Radio 2 about Prince William having branded us all 'Anglesey Onions'. Listen to it here (fast forward to around 23 minutes in).

I would like to point out that Clive seemed to enjoy retelling the tale of the slaughter of the Druids a little too much for my liking...!  

Friday, 25 February 2011

McGregor to Sargeant: "I do not believe that investing further money in the recovery process is justified"

A Freedom of Information request has now elicited the below letter which the Leader of Anglesey County Council, Cllr Clive McGregor, sent to Carl Sargeant, WAG Minister for Local Government, on January 24th -- the day he sacked two group Leaders from the Executive:

(NB: the names have been removed)24 Jan 11 CMcG to CS

Thursday, 24 February 2011

We are all Anglesonians now...

We should offer a double vote of thanks to Prince William and Kate Middleton for not only choosing to carry out their first official public engagement together on their new home -- thus delivering Ynys Môn acres of free media coverage -- but also for so publicly name-checking the island too:

"And it gives me huge pleasure to be introducing to this relationship [with the RNLI] someone who is not only about to join the family but is also about to become an Anglesonian."

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

++ Council Tax rise will be 3.7% ++

I understand that at a meeting of the Executive this afternoon it was agreed that pending approval from the Full Council, the Council Tax rise for 2011/12 will be set at 3.7% -- well below the original estimate of 4.3% floated during the recent Howl i Holi meetings. In order to achieve this reduced rate, all Councillors will be asked to accept a 10% cut in Basic and Special Responsibility allowances.

It remains to be seen what the rises are likely to be for other North Wales councils, but personally I think this sounds like a good settlement considering that council tax rose by 4.5% last year without the need then to find any savings at all. When you consider that this rise is below inflation (currently around 4%), and that there will also be no cuts to Anglesey's libraries and leisure centres this year, it shows just how well the Council does actually function despite the political problems. If the full Council does approve this rise (and I hope it does) it further proves to the Welsh Assembly Government that Anglesey Council is by no means a failing council and certainly does not need to be forcibly amalgamated into a Greater Gwynedd.

UPDATE: Its worth highlighting the below comment from Jeff Jones, former Leader of Bridgend Council:
"The average increase for Wales looks as if it will be in the region of 2.8%. If Ynys Mon sticks to 4.3 % it will probably be the highest increase in Wales this year. If they go for 3.7% then the highest could be Newport at 3.9% with Bridgend at the moment second on 3.77%. Although the real issue is often not the percentage increase but the actual amount paid at Band D. Caerphilli,for example, might be freezing its council tax this year but its band D will be still £897 compared to Newport's £802. Historically the lowest council tax in Wales has always been Pembrokeshire which has a band D of about £707. The lowest Band D in England and Wales is Conservative controlled Wandsworth at £687. In England all council tax increases above 3.5 % would be capped this year. Most English authorities have also taken advantage of the UK government's one one off payment which allows them to freeze council tax for a year. Council tax has also been frozen again in Scotland but the Assembly decided not to go down this route."
UPDATE 2: Neighbouring Gwynedd County Council will see their council tax rise by 3.9%. Another reason to oppose a forced amalgamation between Ynys Môn and Gwynedd.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

An Open Letter to Ieuan Wyn Jones AM

Below is a copy of an open letter from myself to Ieuan Wyn Jones AM which was published in yesterday's Daily Post. Considering the continuing political problems at Anglesey County Council some people may think that forcing a merger with Gwynedd Council is a possible solution. I disagree. Due to the diligence and hard work of the staff Anglesey County Council's services are very good -- therefore Anglesey is by no means a failing council. To force a full merger of two independent Local Authorities -- with all the attendant turmoil that will cause -- for the sake of dealing with just a handful of troublesome councillors in one of them is, in my opinion, a massive overreaction. In the below letter I ask Ieuan Wyn Jones AM to rule out this option unless such a course of action is endorsed by a majority of residents in both counties.

"Following WAG’s decision to ask the Auditor General to re-inspect Anglesey County Council, we can justifiably conclude that Labour-Plaid’s vastly expensive intervention into the council has failed.
As Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs are currently forcing through legislation which will allow the Welsh Assembly Government to amalgamate councils with little or no public consultation, a new audit of the Council could simply provide cover for WAG to proceed with an unwanted merger of Ynys Môn and Gwynedd local authorities.
Although nobody objects to more cooperation between councils to cut costs, I believe that the majority of Anglesey residents are opposed to a full merger for the following reasons:
Firstly, Gwynedd needs to find £28.8 million in savings over the next four years compared to just £10 million in Anglesey - sharing this burden could result in more Anglesey services being cut. 
Secondly, council tax rates are on average £160 higher in Gwynedd meaning big rate hikes for Anglesey residents if they are harmonised. 
Thirdly, a full merger will place the jobs of many local authority staff in danger.
For these reasons I completely oppose any merger with Gwynedd Council and ask Ieuan Wyn Jones AM to answer following two questions:
1. Does he agree with his AMs that local authorities should be forcefully amalgamated without the consent of those effected?
2. Will he give an unequivocal statement that he will oppose a merger between Ynys Môn and Gwynedd unless it is endorsed by a majority of Anglesey residents?
Paul Williams
Welsh Conservative Assembly Candidate for Ynys Môn"

Monday, 21 February 2011

IWJ and Sargeant: no communication, no trust

Anglesey County Council Leader, Clive McGregor, has released the below statement setting out in considerable detail his side of the story.

Much of it is familiar, but for me the most striking revelation is how little Ieuan Wyn Jones and his WAG coalition partner Carl Sargeant must communicate with or trust each other. According to Clive's document both Ieuan Wyn Jones and Albert Owen sanctioned the new 30 member coalition (comprising of Labour, Plaid, Original Independents, and Menai Group -- and excluding Clive's Llais i Fôn group) which was announced last week. However it was the very formation of this coalition which was the impetus for Carl Sargeant to call for an immediate and emergency audit by the Wales Audit Office.

Is there no communication whatsoever between Ieuan Wyn Jones and Carl Sargeant? It is farcical for the WAG Deputy First Minister to "approve" a coalition and then for the WAG Local Government Minister to immediately veto it. Utter shambles.

Read the whole document below:
Clive McGregor Press Release1

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Ynys Môn: the 1% Island

Llandudno conference reading matter
As the Welsh Labour Party conference kicks off in Llandudno today I prepared a little gift for delegates in the shape of the front page story of today's Daily Post.

A Freedom of Information request I made reveals that WAG business support funding has been overwhelmingly funnelled to South Wales firms at the expense of those in the North. Out of a total of £48m in business grants offered since last July (when Ieuan Wyn Jones' flagship Economic Renewal Programme was introduced) just £7m has been received by North Wales firms. Furthermore Ynys Môn -- the poorest place in the whole United Kingdom and struggling with over 2,000 job losses  -- has received just 1% of that total.

This is how the figures break down regionally when we correct for relative populations:

Total business grants per region per head of population

Whereas North- and Mid-Wales has received on average around £10 per person, South Wales has received much more - in the case of South West Wales two and a half times more. Here is how it breaks down by each local authority:

Total business grants received by each local authority per head of population
Click to enlarge.

Anglesey received just £7.05 per head -- less than half the average of £16 per head across Wales. Indeed had Ynys Môn received just the average amount of funding, we should have received another £630,000 pounds over this period -- money businesses on this Island desperately need. And I'm sure our friends at Plaid Wrecsam will have something to say about their home town having only received WAG support equivalent to 68p per head, compared to £70 per head in Newport, South Wales.

Ieuan Wyn Jones is the WAG Minister for the Economy -- the man with his hands on the levers -- why isn't he ensuring that his own constituency is getting a fair share of this vital WAG business support money? As for the Welsh Labour party: they should amend their conference slogan from "Standing up for Wales" to "Standing up for (South) Wales".

You can see the actual FoI request replies here and here, and the spend table released as part of the second FoI request is below.
FoI Response

Thursday, 17 February 2011

++ WAG makes urgent statement on Anglesey Council ++ (updated)


UPDATE: David Bowles' press release concerning Carl Sargeant's statement is below:


The Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, Carl Sargeant, in
a written statement issued today, whilst praising staff, says that
Anglesey County Council’s political problems have not gone away.

He has now instructed the Auditor General to conduct an urgent
re-inspection of the Authority to help him consider ‘a new and more
stringent form of intervention’.

Anglesey’s Interim Managing Director, David Bowles, said “I agree
entirely with the Minister’s assessment of the County Council’s
current political predicament.  This is fundamentally an issue about the
personal values, conduct and behaviours of individual members entrusted
with £150m of public money.  Unfortunately in spite of very extensive
development, support and very blunt advice the majority continue to let
the people of Anglesey down.”

“The Minister has himself pointed to hollow assurances given by some
members to the Recovery Board. Unfortunately, this has been my
experience of how some councillors operate in Anglesey with no less than
five reneging on their own signatures on written undertakings and
agreement. I was appalled at the latest so called new alliances in order
to allegedly take this Authority ‘forward’. This formation has
completely ignored advice that I have given and goes against the
principles of good governance, as demanded by the Minister. It is no
more than a desperate attempt to try to prevent something more dramatic
happening rather than face up to and solve the Council’s long standing
political problems. Shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic is no

Mr Bowles continued, “How can inward investors, other Councils or
partners have any confidence in dealing with a Council dominated by a
number of unprincipled politicians who have a reputation for hollow
promises. There are some members here who have had the moral courage to
make a difference.  One hopes that there is a silent majority who at
some time will stand up to be counted and join them but I fear time has
run out.

“The population of Anglesey and its 3,000 strong workforce are
entitled to expect better of their elected representatives, who cost the
taxpayer in excess of £800,000 a year. Staff here genuinely feel that
they are the ones who will pay the price for political turmoil and
political failure by loss of jobs as a result of a possible merger with
Gwynedd and that clearly is not acceptable. It is the councillors who
should seriously consider their positions.”

“I’m very mindful, however, that in spite of everything they
endure Anglesey’s staff continue to provide good services. This was
recognised in a recent Wales Audit Office report, which praised the
commitment and dedication of a workforce which has been let down by its
elected representatives.  I hope the public recognise and praise our
staff who deliver good services day in and day out.”

David Bowles concluded, “Members have lost the trust of our staff;
they clearly have a long way to go to regain the confidence of the

Five months of inaction.

Amid much fanfare last July the WAG Minister for the Economy and our AM, Ieuan Wyn Jones launched his flagship "Economic Renewal Programme" (ERP), a fundamental rethink of WAG's economic development policies which, according to the bumf, aimed to make Wales "one of the best places to in the world to live and work".

The ERP is predicated upon moving away from a system of grants to one of repayable loans - something which I approve of. To do this the ERP superseded the Single Investment Fund (WAG's then central funding 'pot' for business support grants) which was then closed to new applicants on the same day that the ERP was announced.

Recently I made a Freedom of Information request to discover how many repayable loans had been made via the Economic Renewal Programme since its launch in July 2010.

Would anyone care to make a guess?

The answer is zero. Not a single repayable loan has been offered to a Welsh company in the seven months since the introduction of the ERP. Companies which were at an 'advanced stage' of their Single Investment Fund application were allowed further time to submit their applications by 31 August 2010 -- but since that date there has been no new business support funds available from WAG to any Welsh companies.

In other words despite the precariousness of the economic recovery, the Department for the Economy and Transport has effectively been a 'closed shop' for five months whilst it rearranges the deck chairs in setting up the sector panels which will eventually begin awarding repayable loans.

Remember that next time a Welsh company is in trouble and the Labour-Plaid coalition in Cardiff Bay points its finger at the Westminster government.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


I am glad to see that a 30 strong group, comprising of Plaid Cymru, Labour, the Original Independents and Menai Group have finally agreed to form a new coalition following Clive McGregor's stepping down at the AGM in May. As previously reported here it will be headed by Plaid's Cllr Bob Parry with Labour's Cllr John Chorlton as his Deputy. The 30 have agreed to support the budget and reduce the special responsibility allowance for councillors (i.e. the extra cash received by portfolio holders) by at least 10 percent. I hope that this new and large grouping will provide the necessary stability to prove to WAG that Ynys Môn's councillors are mature enough to work together in the best interests of the Island.

However I also hope that it is not a case of too-little-too-late. The amendments to the WAG Local Government which will allow for the forced merger of Welsh councils has now been passed in committee by the Labour-Plaid coalition in Cardiff Bay despite opposition from Conservative and Lib-Dem AMs. It will be debated again in the Senedd sometime in March before coming law. This measure will allow WAG to merge up to three local authorities without the need for consultation with local residents, and is widely believed to be designed with a merger of Ynys Môn and Gwynedd in mind. There is no doubt in my mind that any forced merger with Gwynedd would certainly not be in the interests of Ynys Môn's residents (see why here).

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Welcome back Wales!

Shane Williams en route to try number 53.
Photo source: BBC

Great to see Wales finally get back into winning ways after an eight game drought against New Zealand (three games), South Africa (two games), Australia, Fiji (draw) and England. Equally good to see Shane Williams cross the tryline twice -- bringing his tally to a whopping 53 tries in the Wales jersey.

Friday, 11 February 2011

‘At what point are you going to recognise that what you do in terms of delivering business support is bad? It doesn’t work’

Open warfare has broken out between Labour and Plaid Cymru in Cardiff regarding Ieuan Wyn Jones's "mismanagement" of his Economy portfolio. In yesterday's Western Mail, various unnamed "senior Labour figures" are quoted as having said:

“Ieuan Wyn Jones is the One Wales weak link. This is not a party political attack – his handling of the economic brief during tough times has been absolutely shambolic. 
“He has lost the confidence and respect of Wales’ business community. Every businessperson I meet wants [former Labour Economy Minister] Andrew Davies brought back. Andrew understood the business community. Ieuan is out of his depth. 
“We hope his incompetence doesn’t reflect badly on Labour in May. There’s no reason why it should but we are very aware of the problem. Labour will have a strong offer for Welsh businesses at the time of the election.” 
A senior Welsh Labour MP said: “I’ve been very disappointed with the performance of Ieuan Wyn Jones. Even arranging a meeting with businesses in my constituency has proved impossible because he is not in control of his diary and is run by his officials. I hope he’s not in the job after May.” 
Another Labour AM said: “The gist of the criticism, which is widespread, is not about policy, so it is not a political attack in that sense. 
“The issue is with the management of the department: a total lack of engagement and understanding of the business community; a failure to respond to AMs and MPs in good time; a dismissive attitude towards local businesses experiencing problems.”

And its not just unnamed Labour sources who have been criticising Ieuan Wyn Jones' record as Minister for the Economy. South Wales businessman Paul Ragan, who sold his insurance business for £20m in 2008, is also quoted in the same article as saying:

“I’ve had an immense amount of feedback from businesses in Wales. The widespread view is that it’s a shame Ieuan Wyn Jones does not see that fundamentally what is wrong in Wales is the environment in which we provide our business support. The reality is that a majority of businesses do not get the support and are really frustrated. They struggle to understand where and how to access support. 
“We need a mix of large and small investors if the economy is to succeed. Economic renewal plans that reorganise the deck chairs are not what we want in Welsh business – we need action.” 
“I met Ieuan Wyn Jones and asked him, ‘At what point are you going to recognise that what you do in terms of delivering business support is bad? It doesn’t work’. 
“I asked him if he was concerned about the power that might be created – whether he was concerned it might become too dynamic. 
“Wales needs to lead and losing the likes of Bosch, Hoover, Visteon and TRW in the last 12 months must be seen as failing as they feed into small businesses and are the fabric of our economy. It is not about small versus big. Other countries have maintained momentum – consider the success in Scotland. It is like losing your star players and going down the leagues and saying ‘we can’t do much about it’ when we can.”

This morning, Plaid Cymru's Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones (herself the author of the heavily criticised agri-environmental 'Glastir' policy) has come to Ieuan Wyn Jones' defence by attacking his predecessor as Minister for the Economy, Andrew Davies:

“The attempt over the past few months to re-invent Andrew Davies as a competent Minister has been a shock to people across political parties. Since leaving office he has sought to blame his civil servants for lack of progress in his past Ministerial portfolios. 
“In my experience, a Minister who blames his civil servants has failed to get his civil servants to deliver on priorities. A Minister has to take charge of his civil servants and that is what Ieuan Wyn Jones has done since taking over the Economy and Transport portfolio. 
“The one major action of the Labour Assembly Government between 2003-07 was to merge the WDA and Wales Tourist Board into government. They managed to re-arrange the deckchairs but they did not change the Titanic’s course – they carried on in the same disastrous direction. 
“It took Ieuan Wyn Jones taking charge to get the civil service to work to political priorities, to adapt a well-received Economic Renewal Programme and to sort out a horrendous lack of financial control on transport budgets. He did all of this in the midst of a global economic crisis. A crisis that Ieuan is also recognised as have handled well."

So while both Labour and Plaid Cymru blame each other for their poor handling of the Welsh economy, I will leave you with the following chart, which shows how each region's economy has performed compared to the UK average over the past 10 years:

GVA per head indices. 100 = UK in 1989. Source: ONS

As you can see, in direct contrast to the remarkable gains made by Scotland in particular (who's pragmatic attitude to economic development we have previously discussed), the Welsh economy has suffered considerable comparative decline.

The truth behind the current mudslinging is that both Labour and Plaid Cymru have failed -- and failed badly.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

What next for RAF Valley's Sea Kings?

RAF Sea Kings: around for a little longer
Image Source: RAF Valley website
The decision by the Coalition to shelve plans begun by the previous Labour government to privatise the Search and Rescue function due to irregularities in the bidding process have been greeted by many with a combination of delight and relief.

This is only to be expected as over the past 20 plus years we have long grown accustomed to the reassuring sight of the iconic yellow Sea Kings flying overhead piloted and manned by brave RAF servicemen and women. We also know that the search and rescue work they perform, on land and sea, is often a matter of life and death -- and therefore it is entirely right than any changes to these arrangements are subject to the very highest levels of scrutiny. For this reason I completely agree with Albert Owen MP when he said yesterday, "lets put safety as the basis, lets put expertise as the basis" for determining any future changes to the service.

However now that the privatisation of the service has been stopped the question remains as to how the current fleet of ageing Sea King choppers -- many of which are approaching the end of their service lives -- will be replaced. The previous Labour government sought to privatise the whole function through a 25 year Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal in order to avoid the capital expense of having to buy a whole new fleet of Search and Rescue helicopters. Whether this would have been more cost effective or not is open to debate as many Government PFI deals have been so ineptly handled that the they have ended up costing far, far more over the long term. However, whatever your view on PFI deals it would at least have provided for the full replacement of all old Sea Kings with brand new, faster Sikorsky helicopters of a type currently used by the already privatised Coast Guard Search and Rescue service.

I understand that the potential procurement options to meet future SAR requirements are now being considered. My personal hope is that the Government will now find a way, despite the financial pressures, to fund the new helicopters which will become necessary in the long run to preserve the standard of this life saving service. Furthermore I will continue to argue for the preservation and further development of RAF Valley as the key Search and Rescue base in North Wales and beyond.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Wikileaks on Wylfa

Wikileaks has just published via The Telegraph the below confidential cable from the United States' London Embassy about the UK's new nuclear programme. Dated June 2009 it provides a complete summary of the Government's plans at that time and also the likely problems.

Of interest to us on Ynys Môn is the commercial information it provides regarding US reactor company, Westinghouse's negotiations with E.On and RWE's regarding their Wylfa and Oldbury sites (Section 5). It notes how Westinghouse is trying to get the German energy companies to select its Westinghouse AP1000 reactor over the French Areva system, saying that the final decision will not be made until December 2009 (its now February 2011 and I understand this decision has still not been finalised). If Westinghouse is selected it says they will use US largest engineering company Fluor Corp together with a UK company to provide engineering, procurement, and construction services at both Wylfa and Oldbury.

Lots of other interesting stuff, particularly regarding the three workforce challenges facing the UK: an aging workforce where most workers are between 45-54 years old; a skills gap; and the difficulty in attracting enough workers as demand ramps up (see sections 9 & 10).

Read the whole thing below.

Ref ID: 09LONDON1514
Date: 6/30/2009 11:42
Origin: Embassy London
Destination: 09LONDON3199

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LONDON 001514 NOFORN SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/01/2019 TAGS: ENRG, TRGY, SENV, KNNP, UK SUBJECT: UK RAMPING UP ON NUCLEAR POWER, BUT CHALLENGES REMAIN REF: LONDON 3199 Classified By: Economic Counselor Kathleen Doherty for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1.(C/NF) Summary.
HMG is making steady progress in launching its ambitious plan to build eleven new nuclear power plants between 2018-2025. The UK will need to address several challenges, including workforce issues, nuclear waste, planning procedures, reactor design, and site assessment procedures for this effort to be successful. A diverse industry with a mix of corporate players and different nuclear reactor technologies is emerging. Nuclear energy enjoys support from both the Labour and Conservative Parties as a way to reach a targeted 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. HMG and industry, however, will need to collaborate closely for this nuclear new build plan to work. End Summary.

UK TIMELINE FOR NUCLEAR NEW BUILD --------------------------------- Nuclear power currently accounts for only 15 percent of the UK's electricity and HMG wants to double this amount. HMG wants to have the first nuclear site up and running by 2018, with all eleven plants fully operational by 2025. Plans established by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) are currently on schedule. DECC's Office of Nuclear Development (OND) received nominations from industry players for eleven recommended nuclear power sites on March 31, 2009. OND published these sites in a month-long public comment on April 14. OND is now developing a National Policy Statement (NPS) on Nuclear Energy, expected to be completed by autumn 2009. The NPS on Nuclear Energy will then undergo public comment before it is sent for "Parliamentary scrutiny" around March 2010. The final step is for the Nuclear NPS to be passed to the newly created UK Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) in March/April 2010. The IPC will then use it as a policy framework as it reviews planning applications for new nuclear power plants. It is still too early to have a 'calendar' for when construction might start on individual power plants. THE BUSINESS PLAYING FIELD --------------------------

3.(C/NF) DECC officials tell us HMG wants a variety of industry players involved in new nuclear build. French-owned company EDF Energy became a major player when it bought out British Energy (BE) in January 2009 for 12.5 billion GBP ($20.5 billion). EDF Energy uses French-owned company Areva's EPR nuclear reactors. Areva is the main competitor of U.S. company Westinghouse, which produces the AP1000 reactor. EDF Energy submitted nominations for five sites, which include Hartlepool, Heysham, Dungeness, Hinkley Point, and Sizewell B. EDF also bought land owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in April at the Bradwell site.

4.(C/NF) Plans currently call for all nuclear new build to be funded completely by the private sector. However, EDF criticized HMG publicly in May for not providing subsidies. MP Jamie Reed (Labour Party) commented to ESTHOff shortly after this public announcement, "EDF should not expect any subsidies from HMG." The new Energy Minister at DECC, Lord Hunt, reinforced this view in a public statement in mid-June. EDF Energy is now retreating from its comments on subsidies and is asking for a "level playing field" of financial incentives comparable to the renewable energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS) sectors.

5. (C/NF) German-owned utilities E.On and RWE formed a joint venture and bought land in April owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) at Oldbury and Wylfa. David Powell with Westinghouse told us RWE also owns land at Kirksanton and Braystones, two other nominated sites. While RWE does not have specific plans yet for the land, said Powell, he speculates RWE may partner with E.On to develop these sites. Westinghouse is bidding to partner with RWE and E.On on the Oldbury and Wylfa sites in the near-term to provide the AP1000 reactor, but will not know the outcome until December 2009. Powell added Westinghouse will probably pick U.S. company Fluor and a U.K. company to provide related engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services as part of the overall contract with E.On and RWE at these two sites. NDA also has unused land at Sellafield, noted Powell, and he suspects the consortium of Iberdola (Spain), GDF Suez (Belgium) and Scottish Energy may buy this property.

6.(C/NF) Westinghouse also operates the Springfield fuel LONDON 00001514 002 OF 003 processing plant in Preston, and supplies the majority of nuclear fuel to nuclear plants in the UK. David Powell told ESTHOff that Westinghouse is negotiating with NDA, DECC, and others to lease additional land owned by NDA to expand its capacity for processing enriched uranium. Westinghouse said there is a deadline of March 31, 2010 to determine whether this new arrangement will work, since the current agreement expires at that time. The Springfield fuel plant currently employs approximately 1500 workers and ships approximately 200 tons of fuel a year to nuclear plants in the UK. The UK Nuclear National Lab (NNL) conducts research and development on uranium fuel on this site. NEW PLANNING AND ASSESSMENT PROCESSES MAY CAUSE DELAYS --------------------------------------------- ---------

7.(C/NF) The timeline for nuclear new build may begin to slip. One key issue is a General Design Assessment (GDA) conducted by the historically understaffed Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) Nuclear Installation Inspectorate (NII). While David Powell with Westinghouse expressed concern to us in the past about NII devoting disproportionate resources to reviewing Areva's nuclear reactor design, he told us on June 26 the situation has improved since NII recently increased its staff (and salaries) to meek workload demands. NII is also responsible for issuing nuclear site licenses. Both the GDA and nuclear site licenses are expected to be completed in mid-2011. Given the overlap on the deadline for both procedures, Powell said there is concern NII will not be able to keep up with the dual workload.

8. (C/NF) A major unknown is the new UK Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which was created by the 2008 Planning Act. Planning applications for nuclear new build will need to be submitted to the UK IPC under this new system. IPC is in the process of hiring staff, appointing CEOs and senior commissioners, and will not begin reviewing or advising on planning applications until sometime in March/April 2010. One NDA official and other industry players have confided to ESTHOff this process could be delayed. HMG will provide national policy statements (NPSs) to be used as the policy framework for the Commission's decisions. FUTURE DEMANDS ON THE NUCLEAR WORKFORCE ---------------------------------------

9.(SBU) The nuclear energy sector in the UK faces three workforce challenges: an aging workforce where most workers are between 45-54 years old; a skills gap; and the difficulty in attracting enough workers as demand ramps up. According to the UK Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), 40,000 jobs in the UK are directly attributable to the nuclear energy sector (ref A). The largest employer is the Sellafield site in Cumbria, with 11,000 workers. Demand is strong in the UK for "new blood" in the nuclear work force. Dr. Andrew Sherry of the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester speculated to ESTHOff the number of workers in the nuclear sector in the UK will need to increase by 18,000 over the next 20 years.

10.(SBU) The Nuclear National Skills Academy, established in 2007 as a membership-based organization, has the lead on training efforts in close coordination with UK universities, industry, and government agencies. Secretary of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Ed Miliband recently unveiled a new 20 million GBP ($32.8 million) facility on June 19 -- the Energus Center -- in West Cumbria to provide training near the Sellafield nuclear site. Dr. Sherry also told ESTHOff there is a network of UK educational institutions developing a masters program for nuclear engineering. A collaborative effort between the Dalton Nuclear Institute, Nuclear National Skills Academy, and the UK National Nuclear Lab (NNL) includes providing apprenticeships to university students. DEALING WITH NUCLEAR WASTE --------------------------

11.(C/NF) Safe disposal of nuclear waste is a big challenge. Even NDA officials say publicly this is one of the biggest challenges for the UK. Chief Scientist at the UK National Nuclear Lab (NNL) Graham Fairhill told ESTHOff that HMG is assessing geographic areas in the UK for "deep disposal" of used plutonium and spent fuel. Waste management research is one of the UK NNL's highest priorities. Fairhill told ESTHOff the Copeland/Cumbria region -- where Sellafield is located -- "volunteered" to be one of the UK depositories LONDON 00001514 003 OF 003 for nuclear waste. MP Reed (Labour Party) had a different view, however, when asked by ESTHOff and said his constituency in Copeland/Cumbria is interested in helping HMG "work through" the process of dealing with nuclear waste, but "will not just do it for them." Even Fairhill speculated local government officials in the Copeland/Cumbria region will demand some "financial incentives" from HMG in return for serving as a disposal site for nuclear waste. THE WHITE ELEPHANT: MOX PLANT -----------------------------

12.(C/NF) The Mox Plant, established to process and recycle mixed oxide (mox) fuel at Sellafield, continues to be a "white elephant" for HMG. The Mox Plant is considered one of HMG's most embarrassing failures in British industrial history, costing taxpayers 90 million GBP ($147 million) a year. The plant's complex fuel recycling procedure, coupled with management and equipment problems, have plagued it for years. NDA is under public and parliamentary pressure to make a decision on whether to keep the plant open or close it down. The fact that Areva was brought in to fulfill the commercial contracts that the Mox plant could not fulfill also adds to its political unpopularity. NDA officials told ESTHOff any of the options -- investing in the plant or closing it down -- will be expensive. There are no clear answers for HMG, but in the meantime the plant continues to drain resources and is a black mark for the entire industry at a time when HMG is trying to ramp up its nuclear new build efforts. OTHER SUPPORT FOR NUCLEAR NEW BUILD EFFORTS -------------------------------------------

13.(C/NF) HMG is developing a "center for excellence" in nuclear research to support new build and decommissioning efforts. In late March 2009, then Minister of Energy Mike O'Brien announced Serco, Battelle, and the University of Manchester had been chosen to run the UK National Nuclear Lab (NNL). Chief Scientist Graham Fairhill said there are areas for U.S.-UK collaboration, given that U.S.-based Battelle is a partner in this effort. NNL's activities range from researching strategies to deal with nuclear waste, to providing reactor analysis and fuel services, among others. One of NNL's new labs was established to deal with handling plutonium fuel. This facility will be operational in a year. Fairhill added that he envisions partnership opportunities between the UK, U.S., EU, and Japan in using the facility once it is up and running.
Comment -------

14.(C/NF) Nuclear new build enjoys good political support at DECC and more broadly, within HMG, and industry players are satisfied with the support they get from DECC Secretary Miliband and recently appointed Minister of Energy Lord Hunt. However, the ambitious timeline established by DECC does not allow much room for delays. There will need to be a concerted effort within HMG and private industry to make even one nuclear plant operational by 2018. There will also need to be a strong public relations campaign throughout the process to build support in communities where new nuclear plants will be located. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX LeBaron

Friday, 4 February 2011

IWJ: third meeting at Anglesey Council in a week

As I write Ieuan Wyn Jones is at Anglesey County Council's offices in Llangefni again trying to push through his preferred solution of a Plaid Cymru and Labour-led coalition to replace the current faltering Alliance (which also contains Plaid Cymru and Labour...). Anyway as he was there last Friday, this Monday, and now today too, this is his third set of meetings at the Council in a week -- and clearly demonstrates either (a) how earnestly he is trying to resolve the council's problems; or (b) just how embarrassing he feels it would be to him personally should WAG be forced to send in the commissioners to Anglesey just before the Assembly elections.

I'll leave it to you to decide which...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Carl Sargeant to Anglesey Council: you're in the "definitely the last chance and this time I'm serious" Saloon

Yesterday David Bowles circulated the below letter from WAG Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant, to all councillors. Writing about the recent sackings of John Chorlton and Hefin Thomas, Sargeant notes that this could "easily destabilise the Council's recovery" and "indicates that the issues [the] Council has had in the past in relation to internal disputes and personal rivalries have still not gone away".

In response Sargeant has asked the Recovery Board to give "an urgent and frank evaluation of the actual progress of [the] Council over the past 18 months and the possibility of [it] achieving a sustainable recovery" -- which is what presumably the Recovery Board's meeting with David Bowles on Monday in Treaddur Bay was all about. If the Board feels that a recovery is unlikely Sargeant warns he will take "further decisive action" which will have "grave implications for the Council as currently constituted". As this letter was written on 27th January -- the day after he forced through last minute amendments to the WAG Local Government Measure allowing for the amalgamation of "two or three" Local Authorities --  this clearly means that WAG will pursue the forced merger of Anglesey and Gwynedd councils if recovery cannot be achieved.

So what do we have to show for 18 well-paid, expensive months of David Bowles and the Recovery Board? Clive McGregor started off with a coalition of 27 councillors as head of a coalition of Original Independents and Plaid Cymru. That was reduced down to a coalition of 20 following the "coup" in June when the Original Independents were split and a new coalition was formed between Llais i Fôn, Plaid Cymru, Labour and the Menai Group. Those numbers have eroded gradually over time as Keith Evans left the Menai Group and, lets be honest, some Plaid Cymru members never really had their heart in it anyway as they refused to sign the Terms of Engagement. Clive's recent sacking of John Chorlton and Hefin Thomas from the executive (but not from the Alliance) means that their actual number of supporters is now well below a majority level -- which almost guarantees the kind of conflict we are now seeing. In response Ieuan Wyn Jones and Albert Owen, having belatedly woken up to the problems at the Council, have tried to engineer an Alliance between Labour and Plaid Cymru with either Bob Parry or John Chorlton as Leader -- they then seemed surprised that the Independents, who between them have a majority, do not see why they should have a Leader and Deputy forced on them from a Labour and Plaid alliance that anyway only has 13 members... It appears we have mostly been going backwards not forwards on the political front over the last 18 months.

Anyway, one thing is clear: if Councillors do not wish to see their numbers dramatically reduced as part of a forced merger with Gwynedd Council -- which will also have severe consequences for both Anglesey County Council employees and Anglesey residents -- then now is the time for them to put the greater good of Ynys Môn ahead of all other considerations. Past grievances must be put aside and all councillors must find a way to work together and show that Ynys Môn as a unitary authority is worth saving. 
Carl Sargeant Letter

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Quote of the Day

A senior councillor's reply today when I asked whether the conclusions of Monday's Recovery Board away day meeting with David Bowles at Treaddur Bay were known yet:

"What do I know? I'm just a county councillor..."

So we're all still in the dark then. One thing does seem clear though: with each day that passes the likelihood of the commissioners being sent in seems to be diminishing (touch wood). So much for Carl Sargeant's stern warning eleven months ago that Anglesey County Council was in the "Last Chance Saloon"...

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic...

As I write this the Leader of Anglesey County Council is still Clive McGregor -- but possibly not for much longer. It appears that over the past four days just about every possible combination of groups forming a new Alliance have been discussed and rejected, together with equally indecisive talks about who should be the new Leader and Deputy.

Possibly realising that the siop siafins at Anglesey County Council is not a good advertisement for their own leadership, both Ieuan Wyn Jones and Albert Owen have belatedly gotten involved (something both should have done openly months ago) but so far a solution to which a majority can agree on has proven elusive. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but this is how the discussions regarding Leader and Deputy have been progressing (if that's the word) day-by-day:

Friday:  Bob Parry (Plaid) and John Chorlton (Labour) as joint Leaders
Saturday: Bob Parry as Leader, John Chorlton as Deputy Leader
Sunday: An Independent as Leader, with Bob Parry as Deputy Leader
Monday: Back to Bob Parry as Leader with John Chorlton as Deputy Leader

Who knows who will be in the frame by the end of play today...  Meanwhile yesterday the Recovery Board and Interim MD, David Bowles, held a separate meeting together in Treaddur Bay to no doubt discuss whether to call in the commissioners or not. No news on what was resolved there yet.

And while all this plotting goes on endlessly, who is working on the already much delayed and critically important 2011/12 budget?