Sunday 25 December 2016

Throwing Stones

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”

Winston Churchill

Such is the current disarray at Carmarthenshire County Council that if there ever was a planned policy, "a destination", for the area, no-one is clear what it was. Much of the energy and focus of the political leaders and senior local government civil servants seems to be taken up by the stone throwing. The consequences of historical actions seemingly motivated by thin skins and the desire to rewrite the record after the facts after failure, have stacked up.

Although most dogs retire hurt after a few stones, others will keep barking. 

These citizens have taken the hits from many stones but fail to tolerate injustice and are still prepared to bear witness to what has actually happened,
The elites who run the council continue to use propaganda and publicity services, legal action and quiet threats to keep the lid on a boiling pot of discontent.

I've been criticised in the past by Mr Mark James, the Council's chief executive, for asking too many questions but certainly I cannot complain about having too many answers. I used to get a lot of evasive answers and still get a few of those, but the number of "no shows" with no explanation of the lack of reply is growing

If I, as an elected Councillor, can't get answers to questions relating to the County Council and its actions,what chance is there of the public having its voice heard?. The idea of basic democracy is being ignored by those who think they know best. The public should, perhaps, not be troubled by things they do not need to know, especially if the truth will upset them!  

Over 150 years ago Abraham Lincoln described democracy as "government of the people,by the people, for the people".

The people in charge here are not accountable to the people they serve. Perhaps feel they are superior, qualified to dictate, rather than respond to the needs of others. Even elected members here usually have more loyalty to their political parties than their voters.

The general system relies on 2 premises:

a) That senior local government officers continue to control elected councillors by a combination of threats and flattery, tolerated by those elected councillors.

b) That the local electorate does not significantly change its voting patterns, thereby returning to "power" many of the current crew, well trained in the local system of control, rewards and retribution

Politics is a long game, but change will surely come. 

Siân Caiach 

Friday 16 December 2016


Robin Burn argues that commercial steel is still viable in Wales

In a recent article, The Llanelli Herald, published November 11th, Assembly Member for Llanelli, Lee Waters, analyses the prospects for the steel industry in South Wales. The thrust of his argument discusses the role of the Government in Wales and the United Kingdom, and how Governments can influence policy decisions of the steel making industry in respect of support interventions. Similar comments were voiced by the Member of Parliament for Llanelli, Nia Griffith published in the Llanelli Star Wednesday 14th December issue.

As the Assembly Member contemplates the role of Government from a political viewpoint, more importantly the actions of the steel making companies themselves , in safeguarding their own futures, play an equal part.

History tells us Government intervention, however well intentioned, has never been the solution to industrial strategy, and long term survival, as Governments’ change their intervention strategy, depending on the nature of the political decision making, of the party in power.

The steel industry in the United Kingdom has been serving the economic welfare of the United Kingdom and its industrial base, longer than some political parties have been in existence. Its ability to change, meeting the demands of the engineering sector, has been the basis of its survival strategy.

The argument, proffered by the Assembly Member for Llanelli, Lee Waters, government intervention as a sole solution is misguided in as much as, it ignores the role played by the steel industry itself , by its engineers and scientists, developing the techniques and industrial practise to ensure its long term survival. Government has a role to play in ensuring the industry has a stable platform on which it can develop to survive, not give it an artificial prop as a short term solution.  Government with its policy may not always be favoured by future regimes.

The engineering industry in the United Kingdom, is one of the provision of  products of increasing sophistication, to meet the needs of advanced technology, of high integrity engineering. The United Kingdom is in the forefront of increasingly advanced engineering, in aerospace, defence and power generation, all of which have the requirement of advanced, special high specification steel, it all of  its producable forms both cast and wrought.

The need for mass produced, high volume wrought long product of a reduced quality, and by nature lower value, has to be scaled back as no longer viable, replaced by the higher specification steels required by the advanced engineering industries.

The steel making industry is a global one, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the worlds installed steelmaking capacity, is projected to increase to2.36 billion tons by 2017. One third more steel than the world actually needs.

It was argued in an earlier discussion document,(A different Nuclear Solution; People First website, ; 6th August 2016) that the replacement nuclear power station at Hinkley Point could be a solution provided by the building in the United Kingdom utilising existing technology used in building small nuclear generators used in nuclear submarines. The special steel cast and wrought steel product used in the building of such nuclear reactors exist made in United Kingdom steel production plants.

The home based steel production plants can, and are being contemplated in, replacing their production techniques and equipment to make the very high steel product required for  advanced engineering needs.

On October,13th , the annual event Bessemer Day, held jointly by IOM3 and the Iron and Steel Society, was held in collaboration with the South Wales Materials Association (SWMA), at the new Bay Campus at Swansea University.
The culmination of the day was the presentation by Professor Alan Cramb, President of thee Illinois Institute of Technology, winner of the 2016 Bessemer Gold Medal, of the Bessemer Lecture.
Cramb, born in Scotland, studied metallurgy in Scotland, has worked for many years in the American Steel Industry, and a worldwide teacher of steel technology in steel plants.
His presentation, Steel Processing Technology: Potential Futures, a review now published in Materials World Vol.24 No.12 December 2016, reviewed steels past, then looked forward to the future posing the question- what is the future for steel processing?

His progressive thinking suggested, the capability to produce liquid cast iron in volumes less than 500,000 tonnes per year, to carbon-less low temperature reduction of iron oxide to controlled size iron powder for 3D laser splintering to form steel products.

Cramb made three future suggestions for the steel Industry, some options already being practised in other dominant steel making countries.

Firstly, the use of recycled steel scrap, electric arc furnace re-melting is the preferred industry route. In America, 65% of steel tonnage comes from scrap metal. 
 As an example of steel making practise being contemplated to improve efficiency, one steel making plant in South Wales, is replacing its steel melting practise, to the use of re-melting graded scrap in electric furnaces.
However, continuous recycling practise has a detrimental effect on the quality of the end product due to build up impurities of copper and tin, both of which are responsible for reduction in quality, in terms of mechanical properties.
Current practise is to blend; with blast furnace produced pig iron free from copper and tin to offset the reduction of quality. The news of the retention of the two blast furnaces in Port Talbot is welcomed to supply impurity free iron product to steel melting practise.   

Other countries’ steel making plants are utilising municipal waste , to convert into energy, for their internal needs, as a cost reducing measure, which eases the burden on the Local Authority’s for its waste disposal management. The announced building of an electricity generating power station in a TATA plant in South Wales possibly fuelled by recycled biomass and other municipal wastes would be following established practise.

Robin Burn at Tata Steel. Llanelli

The engineers and scientists employed in the steel industry, via their various Chartered Institutions of Engineering, Metal and Material production, are working together collectively; to provide the engineering and scientific solutions needs of today’s high quality engineering. 
Seminars and conferences pertaining to developments in steel making practise are planned.
Since the development and utilisation of the converter by Sir Henry Bessemer in 1856,to the use of strip casting of carbon steels in 2000, the industry itself has progressed continuously with production innovation , as well as development of new steel types, most notably the development of stainless steel alloys by Brearley, and Krupp in 1914.

Robin Burn I Eng. FIMMM

Friday 18 November 2016

A Request to Councillor Emlyn Dole

 In my 8 years as a Carmarthenshire County Councillor some senior officers and senior councillors who rule the roost here, appear very thin skinned and intolerant of  criticism. Even simply pointing out that something isn't working as it should be. Intimidation and bullying are often successful in silencing the critics as far as the council is concerned, One critic, Jacqui Thompson, is currently in danger of losing her home due to losing a libel action  and having to pay damages awarded against her in a libel counter claim funded by this Council brought by our most senior officer.

Carmarthenshire County Council Chief Executive Mark James wishes to claim his libel damages from Mrs Thompson. The record of the  Executive Board Meeting which granted him the funding to make a libel counter claim against Mrs Thompson makes it clear that any damages collected by him would be returned to the Council. So the Councillors agreed to fund him on that basis, Apart from one press report where Mr James apparently claims he will give the money to charity. it seems clear that all others concerned including the Wales Audit Office, believed that any monies recovered would be returned to the Council.

The question is will the Council support Mr James in  forcing the sale of Mrs Thompson's house to obtain this money for them? The home is jointly owned by her husband and 3 of her 4 adult children still use the home as their permanent address. Are these people also to be punished? It seems unlikely that the Council would force the sale to recover the total legal costs. The original decision to fund Mr James also makes it clear that it was dubious that the Council could recover that sort of money.

 I have written to Councillor Emlyn Dole, leader of Carmarthenshire Council who replied with  a statement that Mr James is free to act as he wishes to recover his damages . He says "it is purely his [Mark James'] decision" and that his Council is adamant in its desire to recover the whole £190,000 legal costs of the case "because the taxpayers of the County should not have to bear these costs".

The Thompson's bungalow is a self built home with an agricultural tie and an outstanding mortgage which the couple are struggling to pay as it is. Jacqui's half of the house minus the mortgage debt would pay Mr James' damages but  little would then be left for Cllr Dole's recovery of the 190k legal fees which I believe have been already paid.

It does look rather excessive where a Council Chief Executive is trying to force the sale of a family home only part owned by the person who libelled  him, especially when he had already agreed to give any damages back to the Council. The record shows that decision clearly at the meeting where he was given the funding by the executive board to fight the case. The Council leader and Executive Board, of course, may be fully behind this severe action in order to send a message to anyone who criticises senior officers and the Council as a whole. What they have failed to do is silence this blogger, I believe the real reason or this whole affair is the thin skins of our senior councillors who were happy to use Mr James as a proxy in this case.

Councillor Dole clearly does not appear to agree  that the Wales Audit Office decision that the funding of Mr James' claim was unlawful. The WAO is an arm of the Welsh Government so as a Plaid  Councillor this may be a political pot shot rather than a serious statement. He says that the unlawful status "has not been tested in the Courts" although the Council has taken the clause out of their constitution allowing the funding of senior officers in libel cases.

Councillor Dole is right to say that the damages were awarded to Mr James and he is free to obtain them in any way he wishes. However, the Council funded  his legal case which resulted in the damages being awarded on the understanding that any damages would be returned to Council funds. It seems Mr James is free to use the money as he wishes. as apparently he did not actually sign any document confirming the statements made by the Head of Administration and Law, supposedly on his behalf, at the executive board meeting.

Below, is the text of that 23/1/2012 meeting originally kept secret from us ordinary Councillors and the public. I believe that any Councillors present at that meeting would have made the assumption that any damages would be returned to the Authority by the Chief Executive. I believe also that most current Carmarthenshire County Councillors have no wish to bring the Council into disrepute by forcing the Thompson family to sell up and become homeless in order to promptly recover libel damages originally planned to be paid back to the Authority.

 Mr James has declined to accept affordable instalment payments from Mrs Thompson and instead asks for a full lump sum, only available if the family home is sold. This is his right under law but morally,I think it is wrong. The damages were promised by Mr James in the document below to the Authority. We should not, I believe, insist on making the family homeless to produce these damages in full immediately. As the damages were promised to the Council we should have a say in how they are paid to us. Councillor Dole, please discuss this matter before full council !

 If Mr James insists. as he may, that he now wishes to change his mind and have the damages for himself alone, perhaps we can come to a compensatory arrangement with him? I am sure we can, as a Council, accept instalment payments from Mrs Thompson and give Mr James all the money if he has changed his mind and wishes to not remit the damages to us as agreed. We got ourselves. and Mr James,into this mess by approving the actions in the document below and we can surely extract ourselves from this embarrassing situation??

Siân Caiach,

That consideration be given to granting an indemnity to the Head of Paid Service in legal proceedings before the High Court
    (1) If an indemnity is not granted the Head of Paid Service would be personally liable for legal costs associated with those court proceedings
    (2) The Authority owes its employees a duty of care and an indemnity to the Head of Paid Service in the circumstances of this case is proportionate and reasonable.
Scrutiny Committee recommendations / comments:
Not applicable
Exec Board Decision Required YES
Council Decision Required NO
Name of Head of Service:
Linda Rees Jones
Report Author
Linda Rees Jones
Chief Executives
Acting Head of Administration & Law
Acting Head of Administration & Law
Tel Nos.
01267 224012
E Mail Addresses:
1. A local resident has issued defamation proceedings against (1) the Head of Paid Service and (2) the Authority in relation to comments made in an open letter sent by the Head of Paid Service on the Authority’s behalf to a website (in response to an invitation to do so), and subsequently copied to all members. Any costs associated with the Authority and the Head of Paid Service defending those proceedings will be met (subject to any policy excess) by the Authority’s insurers.
2. The Head of Paid Service, in turn, considers that he himself has been defamed by the local resident in various statements made about him in her internet blog. In view of the potential damage to his integrity and reputation he wishes, in conjunction with defending the proceedings brought by the local resident, to issue a counterclaim in respect of those defamatory statements and seeks an indemnity from the Authority in relation to the costs associated with his bringing such an action.
3. The Authority’s insurance policy does not extend to counterclaims / the bringing of defamation proceedings so the Board needs to consider whether it will use its own powers to indemnify him. Counsel advises that because the Authority and the Head of Paid Service are having to defend defamation proceedings, the costs of the Head of Service bringing his own defamation proceedings will not greatly increase the overall cost. However, it has to be said that in the event of that action being unsuccessful the Defendant’s costs would have to be met.
4. The Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) (Wales) (Order) 2006 only authorises the granting of indemnities in relation to the defending a claim for defamation (which as mentioned in 1 above is covered by an insurance policy) and an indemnity cannot be granted under the terms of the 2010 Order for the issue of a counterclaim.
5. However, Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 allows Authorities to do “anything (whether or not involving expenditure …… ) which is calculated to facilitate or is conducive or incidental to the discharge of any of its functions’.
6. In the case of R v Bedford Borough Council , Ex Parte Comninos (2003) the High Court held that s. 111 in principle enables an Authority to indemnify an officer to bring defamation proceedings.
7. Although the 2006 Order does not extend to indemnifying the bringing of defamation proceedings Welsh Government Guidance issued in conjunction with the 2006 Order states that any powers to grant an indemnity under the 1972 Act (ie. the s. 111 power) are not removed by the 2006 Order.
8. The Authority sought advice from Leading Counsel in 2008 on the s. 111 power and he confirmed that the giving of an indemnity for an officer to bring defamation proceedings was potentially reasonable and lawful under s. 111, although he advised that it should only be exercised in “exceptional circumstances”. Accordingly, the power to indemnify officers in the bringing of defamation proceedings ostensibly exists.
9. Determination of applications for such an indemnity is an executive function.
10. The granting of an indemnity essentially means that the libel proceedings would be paid for from public funds and any decision to grant an indemnity to the Head of Paid Service to bring these proceedings are susceptible to challenge by means of Judicial Review. Indeed, the Comninos case involved a challenge brought by District Audit to Bedford Borough Council’s decision to indemnify its Head of Paid Service, the Borough Solicitor / Monitoring Officer and a Barrister in the Legal Department in the bringing of defamation proceedings. District Audit’s application for Judicial Review in the Comninos case was dismissed on the facts of that particular case.
11. Officers are consulting with the Wales Audit Office and seeking their view on whether they have any concerns about the granting of an indemnity under s. 111 in this case.
12. In deciding whether to grant an indemnity, the Board will need to consider the following matters:
    (a) An Authority cannot itself bring defamation proceedings and the Board will need to satisfy itself that indemnifying the Head of Service in the bringing of proceedings is necessary to protect his own personal integrity and reputation as opposed to the integrity and reputation of the Authority.
    (b) An indemnity should only be granted “in exceptional circumstances”. The Board must therefore consider whether the circumstances in this particular case are “exceptional”. There is no definition of “exceptional” and it will very much turn on its facts.
    (c) The Authority owes a duty of care towards its employees. The Judge in the Comninos case said that “it is difficult to see why giving an officer an indemnity in respect of defamation proceedings brought by him is incapable, as a matter of principle, of being conducive or incidental to a local authority’s employment function”.
    (d) As regards proportionality, the Board is not being asked to indemnify a junior member of staff in the bringing of defamation proceedings, but its most senior officer. Integrity and reputation are essential in order for him to command respect, be able to lead and undertake his duties.
    (e) The counterclaim is to be kept within sensible and proportionate bounds and will focus only on allegations which have been particularly serious or concerning to the Head of Paid Service and which are demonstrably false.
    (f) Specialist libel Counsel advises that the comments chosen are “seriously defamatory” of the Head of Paid Service.
    (g) At the time the ‘Comninos’ case was decided, alternative forms of funding for defamation litigants were not available. This is no longer the case and it might be possible for the Head of Paid Service to retain legal representation on a Conditional Fee Arrangement”. However, the Head of Paid Service’s proposed defamation action is a counterclaim to defamation proceedings brought against him and the Authority and it therefore seems sensible, consistent and more cost efficient to retain the same legal representation, especially as Counsel has advised that the cost of the counterclaim in that context will not greatly increase the overall costs.
    (h) The merits of the particular counterclaim, including the chances of not just obtaining judgement, but also of actually recovering any legal costs and damages if successful. Counsel has indicated that there are two actionable grounds upon which a counterclaim would be based. It is unclear whether the other party has the financial means to meet any order for damages and/or costs that may be made.
    (i) The Head of Paid Service has confirmed that he is not motivated by a wish to benefit financially and that accordingly should his action be successful any damages awarded to him will be paid over to the Authority and will not be kept by him.
(Should normally be contained within one page)
(Delete as applicable)
I confirm that other than those implications which have been agreed with the appropriate Directors / Heads of Service and are referred to in detail below, there are no other implications associated with this report :
Signed: Head of Administration & Law
Policy, Crime & Disorder and EqualitiesLegalFinanceICTRisk Management IssuesStaffing ImplicationsPhysical Assets
(Delete as applicable)
(Delete as applicable)
(Delete as applicable)
(Delete as applicable)
(Delete as applicable)
(Delete as applicable)
(Delete as applicable)
1. Legal
Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 potentially allows an indemnity to be granted in relation to the bringing of defamation proceedings by an officer. However any decision to grant the requested indemnity can be legally challenged by way of judicial review.
Although the exemption under paragraph 16 of part 4 of Schedule 12 (A) to the Local Government Act 1972 as amended is an absolute exemption it is still necessary to consider whether it is in the public interest to engage that exemption. The nature of the legal proceedings and the extent to which disclosure of the legal advice contained in it would assist the other party to the litigation and undermine the position of the Council and the Head of Paid Service in the proceedings should be weighed against the public interest in disclosing the information upon which a decision to spend public money is based. On balance it is considered that the public interest rests in favour of maintaining the exemption and ensuring the provision of legal advice within the same degree of confidentiality as enjoyed by the other party to the proceedings.
    2. Finance
The granting of an indemnity will leave the council liable to potentially meet not only the legal costs of the Head of Paid Service in relation to the counterclaim, but also those of the other party to the proceedings should the counterclaim fail.
It is impossible to estimate what those costs could ultimately be, but in the event the counterclaim fails, there is a risk that the total costs related to the counterclaim could be in the region of £100K.

I confirm that the appropriate consultations have taken in place and the outcomes are as detailed below
Signed: Head of Administration and Law
(Please specify the outcomes of consultations undertaken where they arise against the following headings)
1. Scrutiny Committee
Not applicable
2.Local Member(s)
Not applicable
3.Community / Town Council
Not applicable
4.Relevant Partners
Not applicable
5.Staff Side Representatives and other Organisations
Not applicable

Tomorrow Mrs Thompson goes to a hearing to deal with a request from Carmarthenshire County Council for £190,000. I've specifically written to Councillor Dole to clarify how much of this money for legal costs is actually covered by the legal insurance noted at point one above, No reply as yet.
As the Councillors seem to want nothing but their pound of flesh I and some friends intend to deliver one to County Hall tomorrow.(December 2nd}

Friday 4 November 2016

The Bizarre Government of Carmarthenshire County Council

Local Government matters very little to most people unless they are directly affected by its decisions. If your rubbish is not collected, your local school is threatened with closure or a large development planned next to your back garden you may take notice, lobby your councillors and even find out how to formally object. Otherwise, most people don't even vote in local elections. When your local council is a body renowned for bullying, control freaks  and strange decisions, you may not even rush to complain or object.

Carmarthenshire County Council describes itself as one of the best Councils in Wales.We certainly have cupboards full of impressive awards for various aspects of local government, usually requiring formal applications and awarded by local government organisations or periodicals. The important trophies are not visible in County Hall. The Authority's no less outstanding achievements are in the fields of gross injustice, deceit and heroic efforts to hide any embarrassing mistakes, favouritism or incompetence.

When Christopher Salmon, the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner was defeated in the May 2016 elections. He has overseen the police force in all Mid and West Wales counties but one stood out, and he felt it should be mentioned.

"Carmarthenshire County Council. Wales’ answer to a Sicilian cartel. It’s everywhere you look (thankfully only in Carmarthenshire – so far as I can tell). It extracts vast amounts of money from residents which it showers on favourites, hoards property, bullies opponents, co-opts friends and answers to no one, least of all local councillors."

No comment from the County Council who presumably had no reason to dispute it, Neither, as a Carmarthenshire County Councillor, have I. The Council is a large organisation and provides many good services to the community but there is a sinister undertone. I am convinced that the elected members are not running the show. I am a member of only one scrutiny committee which I have sat on since 2008. Successive chairpersons chairpersons have explained to me that I am not allowed to suggest items for the Agenda as the officers do all that. Councillors have little or no real input or control .Austerity cuts in Carmarthenshire include cutting back democracy. My committee only meets bimonthly now instead of monthly to "save money." This limits our opportunity for discussion, however futile, and also leads to overloaded agendas and late reports, limiting the quality of the scrutiny of those matters we are allowed to look at..,,

One of my greatest frustrations as a Councillor is being unable to help people who seem genuinely harshly treated by the local authority. I am often approached by local voters, some from other wards desperate to get help for a variety of issues. Sometimes I can help, Many times I can't and hit the agonising barriers of denial, delayed or absent responses to queries, strange and sometimes varying explanations and too often a character assassination of the complainant whose lack of insight, inaction or over sensitivity have, it is suggested, caused the whole problem.

It can be hard representing the people among those with more pressing agendas. My unfortunate habit of putting forward motions to council highlighting our problems was blocked by all the political groups agreeing that motions required a proposer and 7 seconders instead of one. They correctly realised that my finding 7 other councillors from the 74 willing to show any dissent in public was impossible.Numerous complaints have been made about me to the Ombudsman by the chief executive, none upheld. Snubs and nasty remarks by fellow councillors fail to penetrate my now very thick skin. In an atmosphere of bullying and questionable decisions I can't blame other councillors for keeping their heads down and their eyes shut.

I rarely use my council email account since I discovered proof that it was being monitored and read. I have had no written explanation of why this has happened. A verbal comment from the monitoring officer suggested a legal reason but she has been unable to say what it was. It is an issue with me, not only for my own privacy but more so to protect my voters from having their emails to me read and monitored. In the area of a council which funded its Chief Executive to successfully sue a blogger for libel for calling him Pinocchio, I do not wish complaints sent to me confidentially to be routinely viewed by others.

armarthenshire was assessed by the Welsh Local Government Association and advised in future to be more open and transparent. The 7 seconder rule was dropped, some meetings are routinely filmed and the public can ask questions to specific meetings, but only in person. The ethos of the Council has not changed, unortunately.
Our recycling record is one thing our council can truly be proud of.

If the dictatorship had truly transformed the County and improved the lives and prospects of the majority of residents it would still be morally tainted but have at least given the area something tangible in return.

However, giving out sweeties to developers, friends of friends and hiding the disasters without delivery of public benefit is the worst of all worlds.Since all the bad things are, according to CCC and if they are noticed, someone else's fault [varying from Mrs Jones at no 52 to the UK Prime Minister] the misgovernment and injustice will continue. In fact the moaning public are regarded as the problem and more brain washing is the preferred solution.

One major criticism of the major political parties in Wales is the primary quest for "Power" even when "holding power" is not often accompanied by the demonstrable wielding of power for the public good.The current Carmarthenshire Council Leader, Plaid's Emlyn Dole, is fond of quotes.

There is a good old fashioned Winston Churchill quote which probably describes best the elected members in Carmarthenshire County Council, (although of course women are included these days.)

“Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party.”

Unfortunately for our residents most Councillors appear to be in the later group. As long as the majority of Carmarthenshire Council's elected members can be manipulated to shelve the common good for party and/or personal advantage, the farce will continue.

 Siân Caiach

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

Update 24th January 2017

The supreme Court announced today with a majority of 8 votes to 3, that, it agrees with the earlier High Court Judgement in 201,6 that Parliament alone makes the decision as to trigger  Article 50 to begin the leave process.

This decision upholds the constitutional process, whereby Parliamentary process overrules ancient perogatory powers , maintaining democratic process, whereby the Members of Parliament, voted for by the people in democratically held elections,uphold the will of the people.

At least, the Supreme Court has wisely ruled out input from the devolved governments.  

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

Update January 1st 2017

It has been brought to the authors attention, that the proposed Moorside nuclear plant, proposed by Nugeneration to be built near to Sellafield, will utilise the construction of 3 Westinghouse design Small Modular Reactors(SMR) AP1000 units, each reactor having an output of around 1.15GW.
The technology was earmarked for potential by the IOM3 energy Materials Group Chair,Professor Peter Flewitt Materials World March 2016,page 14