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