Monday, 17 October 2016

How about a Reverse Greenland ?

From my own Welsh perspective. Scotland is indeed another country. I may have lived and worked  there for a few years but in recent times the nationalist parties of Wales and Scotland have politically diverged further from each other than ever before.Wales voted to leave the EU, Scotland to remain. A divergence reproduced between wealthy and poorer areas of Britain.

 Last weekend the Scottish National Party met in the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow. Like other political parties their membership has markedly increased over recent years.
The number of venues suitable for thousands of delegates in Scotland are limited and this one is particularly well sited as other venues are available in the surroundingarea for the many and varied fringe events.
SNP conference venue 2016, the SECC Glasgow with the iconic "Armadillo" auditorium 
Scotland confounded the pundits in the EU referendum vote by delivering a lower turnout than expected, a higher Leave vote than expected and therefore an impressive but lower Remain vote. It almost looks like the Scots wanted to vote Remain but not enough to keep the the UK in the EU,
Thereby events are fulfilling the policy in their 2016 Scottish Parliamentary Manifesto that they did not envisage another Independence referendum except in the case of a major change in circumstances such as the UK voting to leave the EU and Scotland voting to remain. Coincidentally, this has come to pass.

In the meantime all avenues are to be explored by the Scottish Government to keep Scotland in the EU without all the fuss and bother of having to leave the UK. Hence the "Reverse Greenland" proposition and a few other ideas..

Greenland , population 56.000 was a province of Denmark and was given "Home Rule" status in 1979. It had joined the EEC along with Denmark (and the UK) in 1972 but in the referendum proceeding that decision had voted against joining but mainland Denmark voted for. After devolution a second referendum in Greenland  also rejected the EU in 1982 and exit was finalised in 1985. As the area is still a crown territory of Denmark the inhabitants are still EU citizens and they do trade with the EU and because of that follow EU regulations for exports to Europe. The economy of Greenland is 90% dependant of fish and other seafood. They also get some EU funds in return for limited fishing rights "rented" to the EU.

Now, the argument goes, if a semi autonomous province of an EU member state can leave the EU, why can't a semi autonomous province of a former EU State stay in? Hence the "Reverse Greenland"

Greenland as in the tourist brochure

But just in case the Reverse Greenland thing does't work out - Nicola Sturgeon announced that the draft bill for another independence referendum for Scotland will be published next week

Siân Caiach

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Fantasy Economics and an Invisible Care Home

Sometimes promises close to elections don't come to anything, especially in Llanelli. Despite being the largest town in the entire Welsh Mid and West region which takes up a third of the land area of Wales, Llanelli specialises in shoddy treatment by local government and the Sennedd.

Lets look back to  January 2014 when Carmarthenshire County Council was threatening to close 2 care homes in Llanelli.. Labour Council leader Kevin Madge released a story to the press promising £7million for a new care home, the theme being that any closures would be matched by a new facility. Subsequently St Pauls' Care Home was closed and the one remaining Council rum home seemed to be still under threat, Could this promise have had anything to do with the upcoming 2015 election? Labour would have looked bad closing a care home without a replacement and one of the homes under threat, St Pauls, eventually closes.

Still no care home, then?

Fast forward to February 2016, There is a new Plaid County Council Leader, Emlyn Dole. The last surviving Llanelli Council run care home, Caemaen, appears to be run down and rumours that it is to be closed  are heard. Its near to the Assembly elections in May. When I ask for confirmation that the care home is safe I am condemned by Cllr Dole for scare mongering and the promised new home is now to cost £12,5 million. Caemaen is also promised to be safe and not due to close at all.

All new Care Homes built by the Council are now "Extra Care Homes". These are cheaper than the old care homes. These are basically apartments which are friendly to the disabled and elderly but more like sheltered accommodation than the old style care homes. The residents are tenants and pay rent, The Care is provided by domiciliary care visits with variable frequency , much cheaper than the 24hr staffed homes. It should be called "Less Care"not "Extra Care" but it certainly would give homes to the frail elderly who could manage with daily care visits rather than 24 hour care.

Now we've had the Assembly Elections, the Referendum, and next year its the council elections. In our last Health and Social Care Scrutiny in September it was clear that Llanelli's new Care Home is no nearer the planning stage. There is no site chosen and no business case. The funds allocated remain unspent and Llanelli is ignored once more. Ammanford and Carmarthen have completed Extra Care Home builds. Both were under budget and the Carmarthen Surplus fund of over £200.000 was used to buy Carmarthen's historic Guildhall for the council. I doubt it will be used for social care.

So where is this Llanelli care home? Is it complete fantasy? Why no progress? My best guess is that the cash for the care home is probably earmarked to fund the Swansea Bay City Region Llanelli ARCH project, a private health hub with several business projects, a Swansea University Research facility and a care home. Could that be a project needing £12,5 million? If it is, I doubt any further announcement  until after the Council Elections in May 2017.

After all, supporting private pet firms is traditionally more important than local people's needs in this basket case council and why confuse the voters unnecessarily? 'They don't need to know about their promised Care Home yet and with any luck they'll welcome its eventual addition as part of the Arch Project, all the better appreciated after the long wait.

Sian Caiach

Friday, 30 September 2016

Brexit- The Timetable.

There appears to be a lot of confusion as to when Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be invoked and even more confusion as to whom will be responsible for firing the starting pistol.
The Prime Minister Theresa May has consistently suggested that the triggering of Article 50 will take place in the New Year.

The statement is made on the certainty that, it cannot be made during this year, is based on the following:

On July 3rd of this year, a request was made to the High Court, that, the decision to trigger Article 50, be made by parliamentary assent alone, and not by royal prerogative of the Prime Minister.

A hearing by the high court agreed on July 19th agreed that a full hearing over a 2 to 3 day period would take place commencing October 15th.

This hearing ensures no action will be taken to trigger Article 50 before before this date, and whatever the court decides, will, most certainly, result in a request to the Supreme Court for a review of the High Court’s decision . This then will be delayed until at least December of this year.

In the event that the Supreme court upholds the ruling, that, only a parliamentary vote to leave will be the final decision, can Article 50 be invoked. 

The referendum in favour of rescinding the United Kingdom membership of the European Union is not legally binding. The purpose of the referendum was uniquely to gauge public opinion on the proposition of leaving or remaining a member of the European Union. This position was never outlined to the electorate, as the inevitable outcome of such a revelation would have had a significant  effect on the levels of turnout countrywide.

In short in could be argued that the electorate were misled from the onset.

The United Kingdom does not have a written constitution, significant decisions on matters legal and constitutional were the at the discretion of the monarchy as royal prerogative, and latterly the same rights endowed upon whichever Prime Minister was leader of the democratically elected government in power at the time.

This situation will be tested legally and decided upon by the High Court Judgement in October.

As regards the dilemma to be facing the elected parliamentarians in the event the case is upheld by the Supreme Court , and parliament has to decide by debate , this will certainly separate the wheat from the chaff. 

After all that is their role in our democratic process, the populous vote for their representatives to represent their interests, and hopefully arrive at the best solution for the country as a whole.
That situation will be manifest itself eventually.

 Robin Burn

Monday, 26 September 2016

By Election in Cilycwm

The Carmarthenshire County Council By Election in Cil y Cwm ward was not a bed of roses for People First and our candidate Jacqui Thompson, deserves praise for her fortitude. Rural North Carmarthenshire is a neglected and remote area but it became quite a busy political area as all major political parties, ourselves and 2 independents all competed for votes. We were threatened with a very negative campaign against us and I think it was delivered. By elections are difficult as there is little time to prepare and effectively no time to rebut false allegations or unrealistic promises. I hope the ward benefits from the interest engendered by the election,


 We did well in getting 2 leaflets out and talking to as many people as possible. We could not match the numbers of activists from all over Carmarthenshire and beyond fielded by Plaid, Labour and the Lib Dems but that's not going to be such a problem in the next County Council Elections when the major parties will be fully stretched.

However, one unpleasant lesson learned was that although Bell's Principles adopted by People First instruct us to treat our political opponents with courtesy and respect, it is now clear that it is unwise to allow certain  political opponents to visit you at home. One party at least is happy to send in a leading party activist to aggressively press you to stand down as a candidate or face a negative campaign against you and even then decline to leave when asked! A new edition to our candidate training programme is certainly in order!

Results:   Plaid Cymru                                            201               22nd September 2016
               Independent                                              151
               Labour  [pro Corbyn]                               123
               Independent  Conservative [pro Remain] 105
               People First                                                64
               Liberal Democrats                                     62
               Official Conservative                                 15                Turnout 61%

Just thelist of candidate parties shows quite a lot going on. Although the more successful Independent allegedly denied he was likely to join the Affiliated Independents the group leader popped up at the count just in case.

 I have no idea exactly what is going on with the local Conservatives.The Liberal Democrats threw everything into the campaign. I met more leading Labour members from Llanelli in this campaign than I ever come across socially in Llanelli in a similar period, I just hope that this area gets a bit more notice now the election is over.

One persistent rumour was that the son of the former County Councillor' Tom Thheophilus, is definitely standing next May. He's said to be a Plaid member and several people in Cil y Cwm village [where Plaid got by far the majority of their vote] seemed to think the current successful Plaid Candidate, Dafydd Thomos, was just a temporary stand in. It will be interesting to see how that one pans out.

A great deal has certainly been learned and the dirty tricks become less of a problem when they have been used against you once!

Many thanks to Jacqui whose bravery and tenacity is inspiring to us all.

 Siân Caiach,

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Jacqui Thompson stands for People First in Cil y Cwm By Election

In Carmarthenshire we have a county council By Election on September 22nd.Veteran octogenarian Councillor Tom Theophilus has passed away. Tom stood as a Plaid endorsed Independent and held the Cilycwm seat since the council was formed. The word was that before every election he made promises of future loyalty and support to the County Plaid Cymru Group.  After every election he joined the right wing Affilliated Independents, voting with them against the Plaid Cymru group. He therefore captured the nationalist vote to add to his own personal vote without acting as a Nationalist at all in County Hall. Plaid never had the guts to put a loyal party member up against him.

The ward is extremely rural and its area covers 50 square miles. The County Council has recently stripped it of all of its schools, It is lacking in bus transport, decent broadband,well maintained roads and general facilities.

Local resident, Community Councillor and political blogger Jacqui Thompson has joined People First and we  thoroughly support her as our candidate. She will certainly change the council for the good.

 Last election in 2012 the results were:

Tom Theophilus           INDEPENDENT/PLAID ENDORSED   307     majority 43
Jacqui Thompson         INDEPENDENT                                      264
Mathew Paul               CONSERVATIVE                                     136     turnout 59.8%

This time there are 7 candidates, Plaid Cymru, People First, Conservative, 2 Independents, Labour and a Liberal Democrat.

Here is the text of Jacqui's candidate press release:

 Councillor Sian Caiach,    Convenor, People First/ Gwerin Gyntaf said;

"Carmarthenshire County Council desperately needs new Councillors like Jacqui Thompson who represent the people rather than themselves or party interests. This Council has been shamed by Jacqui, as she has exposed waste,secrecy, paranoia and wrong doing in this body. Her efforts have been rewarded by the respect of many outside the Council but hostility and persecution by all of the 3 party political groups within Carmarthenshire council, Plaid, Labour and the Affiliated Independents.

They have all condemned her for her criticism as they have all been involved at one time or another in the unpopular and questionable decisions and service cuts which hurt the public but leave the local wealthy and political elites without inconvenience and sometimes personally enriched.

We need people like Jacqui, fearless champions  of ordinary folk, willing to speak out and not allow local issues to be dictated by the wealthy and powerful. The People must take back control from these nodding donkey Councillors who seem to care far too little for the people who elect them and far too much for the rich and powerful.

People First/Gwerin Gyntaf was formed  in Carmarthenshire in response to the lack of accountability, openness, integrity and honesty in the County Council. We believe in true representative democracy where the people are consulted and control their representatives, rather than Councillors making important decisions without a thought to the people affected. Jacqui will certainly put in the time and effort to help change this Council for the better. We are very proud to support her."

County Council Candidate  Jacqui Thompson

Jacqui Thompson said:

"I am delighted to be a candidate and to have the chance to represent all the communities within the Cilycwm ward. There is no doubt that this ward has had a raw deal from the County Council, from closing the last primary schools this year, to closing the local secondary school last year. If elected I would ensure that we have our fair share of money and resources, I won't sit back and watch it being funneled into white elephants and vanity projects at the expense of our essential local amenities and those most in need.

I'd be a wake up call to the county council, my reputation proves that I will not be silenced, and will make sure that all the interests and concerns of this entire community, are heard, with passion, very loud and clear!"


Jacqui has been impoverished by the libel case taken against her by County Council chief Executive Mark James and the insistence of the Plaid Council Leader Emlyn Dole and his administration that all court costs should be recovered. She has offered installment payments but these have been declined so far and  interest is being added to her debt. 

However, relying on the generosity of her friends and sympathisers, we are funding her campaign through People First.

Until September 22nd all donations to this blog will go to her election campaign unless specified otherwise..If anything is left over she has agreed with our offer to reserve that extra money for her campaign in May next year when all County Councillors in Wales stand for re-election. Jacqui will contest the ward again whatever the result on the 22nd.

Canvassing so far shows essentially a contest between Plaid and Jacqui, and she has a very good chance. She was only 43 votes short last time. Please help her get to be first past the winning  post this time!.  

If you support Jacqui's cause please donate. 

. Siân Caiach

Update: Anyone wishing to see Jacqui in action together with the other candidates can do so at the election Hustings at Llanwrda Community Hall on Wednesday September 14th starting 6.00 pm 

Monday, 29 August 2016

John Willock - A Farewell to a great community activist and friend to many.

John Willock died on 30th May aged 67 in Prince Philip Hospital, He was born on the 11th of May 1949. All his adult life he strove to improve the lot of ordinary people. Cheerful, enthusiastic and resilient, John would help anyone and was fearless in support of a good cause.

 A son of the village of Llangennech, close to Llanelli, he served as a Community Councillor there for 20 years and was Chair of his council twice. His passions were politics, community service, and  his family, including his dogs and racing pigeons.

He was a lifelong socialist, a former trade union member and shop steward. A tireless campaigner, one of the first members of People First Wales/ Gwerin Gyntaf Cymru, for whom he was a County Council candidate in 2012 and a stalwart supporter.

 John spent his life fighting injustice and improving facilities for local people. In Llangennech he started an angling club, youth club, dramatic society and the historic society. In the wider Llanelli area he was a long time secretary of the Llanelli Trades Council, he ran a Llanelli based Socialist Discussion Group,  he successfully campaigned against the closure of Llanelli Care homes, saving Caemaen Care Home from closure.  He was himself recently a resident of Ty Mair Nursing Home when illness left him unable to cope at home.
John was instrumental in setting up the Annual Commemoration of the 1911 Llanelii Railway Strike which takes place in Llanelli every August. He was always greatly impressed by the courage of the Strikers, the brutality of the shootings and the anger of community shown afterwards.. Usually when troops start shooting people dead , the locals disperse. In Llanelli hundreds of unarmed, angry townspeople chased the soldiers back to the station and they had to lock themselves in for their own safety  as stones broke every window. No wonder the history of the incident was suppressed.

This year the 1911 committee, of which John was secretary, dedicated the events of this commemoration week to the man whose energy and dynamism promoted this important event.
John was a loving father and is survived by his sons, James and Julian. Tragically his lovely daughter Samantha suddenly and unexpectedly died earlier this year. John was heartbroken, and perhaps, in his grief never fully recovered from the shock.    

John’s Funeral is at Llanelli Crematorium 9.00 am Friday 2nd September 2016 

 Siân Caiach

Saturday, 6 August 2016

A different nuclear solution by Robin Burn I Eng FIMMM

Small modular nuclear reactors for secure continuity of energy supply.

The UK energy generating and supply industry, has had a program of diversification into renewable sources of supply for many years, enabling the UK to be less reliant on finite gaseous and liquid form hydrocarbons, as well as coal. 

Coal fired power generation, which has been the staple source of electricity, has been gradually replaced by gas fired power stations, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions, as well as increasing the efficiency of energy conversion.

Increasingly, over the last few decades, the adoption of renewable forms of energy, the general mix of extractable sources, and solar wind and water power, has tilted toward the latter sources.

Since the 1950’s, the utilisation of nuclear energy to provide the nations power requirements, has never really fulfilled its promise to become the primary source of the nation’s energy needs.
The siting of the station, overruns in terms of construction times, and costs, has restricted its position in the energy market.

The use of nuclear has once again become a topic of debate with the proposed construction of a third reactor on the Hinkley Point site, the use of a new design of the reactor which has its roots outside of the UK. Add to this the source of the funding has led to its delay on a political level.

Energy sustainability as well as affordability is the crux to the UK economy and political stability. The need for long term reliability as well as fulfilling the need for carbon dioxide emissions requires the use of a nuclear solution.

This poses the overriding question of how this can be delivered in an acceptable manner at affordable costs

Fortunately a solution is available widely used safely and efficiently delivering electrical power where it is needed at an affordable level.

Small modular nuclear reactors (SMNR’s) have been used as a generator of electrical power for marine propulsion on surface and subsea platforms for more than 50 years.

The defence of our  nation was underpinned by the use of our nuclear weapons program delivered from a nuclear powered fleet of submarines for more than 50 years. The United States has nuclear powered aircraft carriers, and along with other NATO and non NATO countries, as well as commercial ships a total of more than 150 small modular nuclear reactors are powering the worlds sea going traffic.

The good news for the UK is that a major engineering group is building these SMNR units constructed in the UK.

The Engineering conglomerate Rolls Royce long associated with the manufacture and supply of engineered products to the defense and aerospace requirements of the UK are the UK leader of this technology. Rolls Royce gas powered engines drive electric generating turbines in gas powered power plants.

A SMNR as a nuclear submarine power source is rated at around 250MW, with a projected build cost as a power station at around £1.25bn the proposed Hinkley point nuclear power station is rated at  3200 megawatt with a build cost of £18bn..

The advantages of building SMNR’s as an alternative are as follows

The SMNR has 50 years of usage in its current form
The existing design is UK based in terms of manufacture using uk sourced components.

The units can be factory built and assembled, reducing unit costs with guaranteed build quantities.

The smaller power station footprint increases site potential availability.

A smaller reactor size requires much less coolant eliminating the requirement of coastal sites.

Build times are significantly reduced.

SMNR’s require fuel of less than 5% enrichment.

If we are obliged to use Nuclear Power to reduce carbon emissions and save the planet, do we really need to build expensive untested big plants when home-grown technology would do? Is this more about producing weapons grade nuclear material than actually cutting carbon?

Robin Burn

Further Reading:

Daily Telegraph Business Section 19th March 2016
Industry Editor Alan Tovey

UPDATE 15.09.2016

" Whilst the announcement today, of the go ahead of Hinkly Point C, on the basis of securing the future needs of UK energy supply, is recognized, an opportunity for  the engineering industry in the UK to be allowed to utilise existing proven technology, has been ignored, at least for the near future. This is a disappointing decision, as hundreds of millions of pounds sterling has been allocated, by the Treasury over the last 2 years, for developing existing technology, used in marine propulsion, to be adapted as a land based energy resource.
Utilisation would secure the UK's special steel production, safeguarding existing plant, and jobs,as well as security, and cost to the UK taxpayer.
It is hoped that the Government consider for future nuclear power stations, not to waste the development funding already allocated, and to apply the developed units for future power generating plants."  

Robin Burn