Why not delay the referendum for now and have a substantial referendum in 2012?

Last week I was invited to be part of a focus group commissioned by the Electoral Commission to garner opinions about the wording of the prospective Assembly Powers Referendum.

There were about 20 people in the group from different backgrounds. Some of us were keen supporters of the Assembly others wanted the institution abolished, but all, apart from myself, were under the illusion that the referendum was about giving the Assembly the same powers that the Scottish Parliament has now. When it was explained that they were mistaken, that the referendum was just about the way that the Assembly gained powers and that the full powers could be gained, over time, even if the referendum produced a 100% No vote, all thought that the referendum was a complete waste of time and money.

The members of the group were all annoyed that they had come to the meeting with strong views on opposing or supporting enhanced devolution only to find that the discussion was about administrative tinkering rather than anything of substance.

Because of the current government's desire to equalize the size of Westminster constituencies the Government of Wales Act 2006, will have to be amended, because the said act insists that Westminster and Bay constituencies must be the same size. In amending the bill why not add an amendment to give the Assembly Schedule 7 powers without the need for a referendum, and have a referendum in a year or two's time on substantive Full Scottish Type Powers for the Assembly, which most people, from both sides of the argument, think that the part 4 referendum is about anyway?


An austerity conundrum

In these days of austerity and tightening of the public belt the ConDem Westminster government tells us that there is a need to cut all sorts of costs out of public service provision in order to reduce costs and to provide better services for less money. A very laudable ideal that many will support.

But yet, when the Plaid /Labour coalition spends less per head on education, or on health or on social services than is spent per head in England the Assembly Government is accused of short changing the people of Wales and of underfunding services in Wales by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats!

I can't understand this!

If we need to cut public service costs why isn't the Westminster Government looking at the Plaid/ Labour Government in Cardiff and saying Wales has proved that you can deliver a decent education for £xxx per pupil less than is spent in England etc rather than the same parties who want to reduce spend per pupil / patient / service user in England complaining that the spend per person isn't as much in Wales as is, according to their own mantra, overspent per head in England?


Its Peter, not Elin who should resign

Rather than calling on Elin Jones to resign following the decision of three English judges to quash the democratic decision of those elected to the National Assembly, Peter Black should consider his own position. How can he justify remaining a member of an institution that he has helped a group of hippies from outwith Wales to undermine?

The decision to stop the badger cull will cost the Assembly millions of pounds, will cause devastation to the Welsh farming industry and cause untold suffering to thousands of cows and badgers. Rather than celebrating so smugly and criticising Elin Jones Mr Black should hang his head in shame.


It's that time of year again!

The time has come, the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax
Of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings.

The time has also come to dig out the passwords for those long forgotten Hotmail, Yahoo and G-Mail addresses, so you can vote for yourself many times over in the:

Click here to vote in the Total Politics Best Blogs Poll 2010

Having nominated yourself, you might consider this blog as a bit of a filling in one or two of your selections in order to make up the numbers!


The Liberal anti Democrats

Supporting fixed term parliaments and proportional representation are supposed to be indices of supporting democracy. Great I am all for both reforms.

It seems a bit odd though that the self proclaimed great party of fairness and democracy just happens to decide that the referendum on PR should be held on the same day as the 2011 Assembly / Scottish Parliament elections, and by coincidence the fixed term of the current Westminster Parliament will fall on the same day as the 2015 Assembly / Scottish Parliament elections!

Plaid and the SNP being excluded from the "British" debate in the last Westminster elections halted their progress and helped the Lib Dems campaigns in Scotland and Wales. Am I a cynic in thinking that the coincidence of two UK issues being dealt with on the same day as the next two Devolution votes is gerrymandering to benefit the Lib Dems?

The truth is that the Lib Dems couldn't give a damn about democracy – they are only in politics for what they can get out of it!

Shame on them for betraying their rich heritage of supporting democracy for democracy's sake, and selling their soul for power and party political advantage!

I sincerely hope that my acquaintances in the Welsh Liberal Democrat Party will tell Mr Clegg that this sort of fix is not in the party's tradition of campaigning for fair, honest and democratic elections. But I won't hold my breath waiting for them to do so!

The National Assembly for Westminster?

Since the advent of the ConDem Westminster government six weeks, or so, ago, I have been disappointed with the attitude of Assembly Members.

I can accept that Labour and Plaid AM's are peeved that the Conservatives and Lib Dems are in Government in London and that the Welsh opposition AMs are as pleased as punch, so one expects a bit of our government V your government banter, but does the Assembly have to be so London Centric in all its proceedings? Questions to the FM and business questions for the past three weeks as well as many other debates all seem to be about what is going on in London.

The One Wales Government is NOT the unofficial opposition to the ConDem Government, the opposition parties are not in coalition in Wales and they are not the spokes persons for the Westminster government in Wales!

We pay AMs of all parties to discuss matters concerning Wales in those areas devolved to Wales, not to be a Westminster sounding board. Apart from letting Wales down with the nonstop London centric point scoring, Assembly questions and debates are becoming very, very boring.

Come on boys and girls get over the last election result; love it or loath it the result stands, please get back to doing the job in hand of managing the devolved issues to the best of your ability despite / irrespective of what is happening down the M4!


Who are the benefit scroungers who rip off Housing Benefit?

Who are the benefit scroungers who rip off Housing Benefit?

Obviously, the people to whom the multi billion pound benefit is paid!

But who it is actually paid to?

Despite what the Daily Hate Mail says, the benefit is not paid to unwaged people who live in rented accommodation, it is actually paid to the owners of the rented properties, some of whom are very rich individuals and most of whom make a killing from their property portfolios.

It is still possible to buy a 3 bedroom house in my area for £150K, a 25 year mortgage on such a property would be approximately £800 pcm. If we forget the 13th month for the sake of simplicity, that's £200 per week. Even with Cameron's cap on housing benefit a landlord can still scrounge a 100% profit out of a buy to let housing benefit house bought today, a good investment.

As time goes by house prices rise and rents rise too. Mortgage costs fluctuate but not by a huge amount. So if I had bought a house for £60k 12 years ago my mortgage repayments would now be about £250 pcm, £65 a week and I could be scrounging a 400% state profit from my investment, without taking into account the increased value of the initial investment. If my investment term was coming to its end I would probably be paying a mortgage of about £10 a week – and still be getting £400 per week rent – nice work if you can get it!

Many of the homes that are being rented for these giddy profits are former council houses, many of the people for whom the rents are being paid are the people who would have been housed by councils in days gone by - if the council housing stock hadn't been sold off.

Council House / Housing Association rents in this area are about £70 a week.

It is not rampant socialism or un-conservative to suggest that if the state is paying for housing the poorest in our communities that the state should get the best bang for its bucks. Paying Rachman type landlords to become multi millionaires from state benefits is not good stewardship of the public purse.

The £11 billion paid in housing benefit each year would build a hell of a lot of social housing. Using it to provide social housing would be the best economic answer to this part of the benefit overspend.


Wales' first 3/19 School

I was disappointed to read on Cllr. Alun Williams', blog that Ceredigion County Council has decided to proceed with its plan to establish a school for all children and young people in the Llandysul area. The school will provide education for all "children" aged between three and nineteen years old.

I feel that there is something intrinsically sickening in proposing such an institution!

As a parent I would not have wanted my children, when they were small, to be educated in such a school. The idea of sending a small child aged three to a school where pupils were swearing every other word, discussing their pretend sex lives and their sexual desires, chewing gum and smoking disgusts me.

As my progeny are now amongst those who swear every other word, discuss their pretend sex lives and sexual desires and chew gum (but do not, as far as I know, smoke!) I want them to feel that they are at the boundary of adulthood, that they are young men rather than little children sharing the same school as three year old toddlers.

When I moved from the Little School to the Big School, and when my children moved from Primary School to Secondary School it was a milestone on the road to maturity. It was a big step in life, a much bigger step than just moving from year 6 to year 7 or moving from junior campus to senior campus. It was a Right of Passage.

I really worry that depriving the children of rural Wales of such a milestone on the way maturity may create serious social harm in the long term. There is a real danger that young people will not "grow up" and learn to accept the new duties and responsibilities that maturity brings.

I'm glad that Plaid Cymru in Ceredigion has objected to such an abhorrent adjustment in the provision of education in the Llandysul area. I am disappointed that their objections have failed to persuade their fellow councillors to abandon it. But I hope that they will send the evidence which formed the basis of their opposition to their friends in Gwynedd, where Plaid is proposing a similar abhorrent shake up of schools in the Dolgellau and Harlech areas.