When buying an Audi is the “cheapest” option?

Recently elected Plaid councilor, Elwyn Vaughan, last week highlighted the outrageous fact that Powys County Council has spent £36,000 on a new Audi car for its Chairman. I’m enough of a realist to know that such things are why some people enter politics. However, it certainly stings when you see in the local press, right next to the report of the new car, an article about how the Council will be consulting the public on how to cut £200,000 from youth services.

Must cut back on Youth Service, but not the Chairman’s hot wheels

Or how about the fact that our children will start school two years later than other counties’ children in order to save money. Placing financial burden on young families of the County.

Then you have the while funding of social care and day centres for the elderly being under threat due to County Hall tightening it’s belt.

The Council’s response?

The council has issued a statement claiming that spending the £36,000 is the cheapest option for them. In the tstatement he council claims that after the Chairman’s tenure ends in a year, the car will be sold and that they will have recouped £33,000.

However, a quick look at the second hand car market prices suggest that a year old Audi A6, automatic gearbox, with 20,000 miles on the clock are going for no more than £25,500. Meaning rather than costing £3,000, the car will cost Powys citizens £10,500.

The main thrust of the Council’s argument, however, is the fact that the Chairman needs an automatic vehicle due to a disability. It is only right and proper for this to be taken into consideration, but here is where the Council’s reasoning starts to leak. Why must the car be a prestigious brand costing £36,000? Do Ford focus’ not come in automatic? Or any other make that cost far less than £36,000? Why must it also be a brand new one, which will devalue far more than a nearly new car?

The council then claims that this option is far cheaper than paying travel expenses to the Chairman, which, according to them, would amount to £7,000. Again, this is true, apart from the fact than the £7,000 is fuel costs. Surely, it will cost £7,000 on top of the £3,000 to run the expensive Audi A6? So, at best this car is costing the citizens of Powys £10,000, that is if the council gets a good price for its sale in a year’s time. So that would be £3,000 more than paying the Chairman his milage cost for his own car.

I don’t doubt that the council will recoup some of the cost of the car in a year’s time, but there are some questions that linger.

  1. Why not opt for a cheaper model?
  2. What else could that £36,000 have gone to pay for for this one year?
  3. How much is it going to cost us next year to buy another car after the sale of this one?

What a bargain!

For one vote, Labour have sold themselves cheap, one might even go as far as to describe them as a “cheap date“. 

Plaid have played the situation brilliantly. For one vote today they have secured quite a list of concessions. Here they are:

  • Thirty hours of free childcare with a commitment to increase the number of Welsh medium places
  • National Infrastructure Commission to deliver investment across the nation
  • Establish fund to end postcode lottery and improve access to new drugs and treatments
  • Welsh Development Bank
  • Recruitment and training of GPs
  • At least 100,000 new apprentices
  • Securing a successful future for the steel industry
  • Campaign vociferously for a ‘Remain’ vote
  • New Public Health Bill without the controversial e-cigarettes element
  • Additional Learning Needs Bill which will include a new Autism Act
  • Strengthen Welsh Language Measure
  • Legislate to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement (the smacking of children)
  • Parliamentary Review into Health & Social Care

Has there ever been an opposition that has succeeded to get so much in so little time.

An agreement to move Wales forward

Today, Leanne Wood and Carwyn Jones will make a joint statement regarding the agreement reached to overcome the deadlock in nominating and appointing a First Minister. 

It is clear what this won’t be. 

It will not be an announcement of a formal (nor in formal) coalition. Plaid have made clear that they intend to be an effective opposition, unlike that of the Conservatives in the last assembly.

It won’t be an announcement of a ‘supply and confidence’ agreement where Plaid props up a Labour minority government for the next 5 years.

What will the announcement be?

This agreement is for one vote- that of appointing a First Minister. The will be a minority Labour government.

For this Plaid has won many concessions from Labour. These include:

  • Re-structure the committee process, which will strengthen the process of scrutinising the government.
  • Establish bilateral committees to examine legislation, budget and constitutional matter. This will put Plaid in an unique position to hold the government to account and have a hand in important developments.

Plaid has also successfully won concessions on 5 of their 9 election pledges. Although details of these will be announced later today, they range from commitments on childcare to working on a New Treatment Fund for the NHS.

In the first week of the Fifth Assembly, Plaid have shown that they are an effective opposition which will ensure that the people of Wales get the best possible deal. 

Just imagine what they could achieve on government in 5 years time!

Plaid gains in Gwynedd

It’s a good news week for Plaid on the local level. Today, Plaid gained three members after they decided to cross the floor from Llais Gwynedd. Seimon Glyn (Tudweiliog Ward), Gweno Glyn (Botwnnog Ward) and Gruffydd Willaims (Nefyn Ward).  Now with 38 councillors, Plaid is in a clear majority on the council. It is certainly good to see further unity in Gwynedd against the politics of austerity that will surely come in the years ahead from central government.

Gweno-Glyn
Gweno Glyn
Simon-Glyn
Seimon Glyn
Gruffydd-Williams
Gruffydd Williams

 

 

2015 Election Review 2: Ceredigion

306px-Ceredigion2007Constituency.svg

Here’s the second of my reviews of the General election in selected Welsh seats. You can read my first review here. I turn my attention to Ceredigion. This was one of the marginal seats the Lib Dems worked to defend and Plaid Cymru were eager to regain.

Context

Ceredigion has been in the possession of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Labour in the past, however, as the Lib Dem leaflets often like to state “It’s a two horse race” there. Ceredigion has a large population of Students in two of its main towns, Aberystwyth and Lampeter, a factor that we will discuss in a while. Note that there was a by-election in 2000 when the Plaid Cymru candidate, Cynog Dafis stood down.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems won this seat with a majority of 3,067. On the face of it this is a healthy majority, and by no means as close as it was after the 2005 election.  However considering that in 2010 the Lib Dems won 50% of the vote, their 35.85% share in 2015 doesn’t seem such a strong position as you might initially think. So what’s going on? After winning the 2005 election, Mark Williams certainly increased his profile in the county. Another example of a personally popular MP who wins on this factor more than the party they represent.

What has happened to the Lib Dems share of the vote? It wouldn’t be fair to say that the Lib Dems  share has taken a nose-dive. We should regard the 2010 result as a blip rather than a new norm. It might be worth noting that the 50% share of the vote for the Lib Dems in 2010 was a coincidence of a very popular national leadership (Cleggmania) and a popular local MP. Take a look at the trend though and it would be fair to say that the Lib Dems’ 35.85% share of the vote is a return to normal; after all in 2005 and 2001 they took 36.1% and 26.9% share of the vote respectively.  Yes there was an upward trend from 1997 to 2010, however in 2015 the perception of the Party leadership might be a factor in such a drop in the share of the vote. We must note, of course,the factor of the Tuition Fee promise in 2010.  This will certainly have had a negative effect on the student vote.

Plaid Cymru

For the last 10 years this has been on the top of Plaid’s target list, ever since Simon Thomas lost the 2005 election. It was a bit of a shock in 2005, however the trend in terms of percentage share of the vote shows a decrease ever since the 2000 by-election. Plaid first gained the seat in 1992, and so could 2005 be a return to the norm for Ceredigion? This certainly isn’t the case when it comes to the National Assembly election, where Elin Jones, a popular local AM and former government Minister in the One Wales Government has kept her seat since its creation in 1999.

Lib Dem success against Plaid seems to be confined to Westminster elections only, with Plaid closing the gap in 2015, and winning 19 seats and control of the Council in the 2012 local elections. Whether 2010 was a high tide mark for the Lib Dems or not remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is this seat will remain on Plaid’s target list.

Labour

Although Labour have had an MP in Ceredigion in the past, the constituency is certainly not high on the party’s target seat list. The labour party took almost a quarter of the vote in 1997, most likely as a result of the Blair landslide of that year, however declining has been the party’s fortunes since. A low point was reached in 2010 where the party polled at 5.8%, a result of the unpopularity of the Brown government of the time. Contrary to the national trend for Labour in the 2015 election Labour increased its share of the vote in Ceredigion, with the local candidate Huw Thomas gaining 9.7% of the vote. This is down to the energy and enthusiasm Huw put into his campaign and the fact that is originally from Aberystwyth. There were more signs placards for Labour in Ceredigion than had been seen for years.

Conservatives

Although Ceredigion is mainly a rural county which borders with two other constituencies where the Conservatives have won, it hasn’t been a place where they have prospered.  Although polling higher than Labour, its share of the vote has steadily declined since 1997 with it gaining its lowest result for 18 years (11%). It is obvious the Conservatives weren’t trying too hard in this constituency, with the candidate being a bit of an enigma when it came to some hustings.

UKIP

As seen in many other constituencies, UKIP enjoyed a surge in the polls as the national party gained much press coverage since their success in the Euro elections in 2014.  The party will be one to watch out for in the Welsh Assembly elections in 2016 in particular the regional seats.

Greens

In much the same way as UKIP, the Greens enjoyed a boost to their polls in Ceredigion much to the fact that the party had unprecedented media exposure on a national level. Some have argued that by fielding a candidate in Ceredigion, the Greens split the Plaid vote, however there is no guarantee that the Green voters would have supported Plaid, and the numbers wouldn’t be sufficient for the seat to change hands.

If you would like me to discuss a constituency in particular, please leave a comment below.

2015 Election Review 1: Montgomeryshire

It has been four days since the 2015 General Election, and there’s a new Government in place – a government composed of…ONE PARTY! Yes, it was a shock to all, not least the pundits, who provided the narrative of a hung parliament and back-room wheeling and dealing. To be fair, we all expected this scenario thanks to pretty much every voting intention poll, but they were wrong.

Nationally, it was a good night for the Conservatives (+11); although disappointing, however neither positive nor negative for Plaid (n/c); slightly negative for Labour (-1); unlucky for UKIP (large share of the vote but no seat); and dismal for the Liberal Democrats (-2), leaving them with only 1 seat in Wales.

Montgomeryshire

So, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the constituencies in Wales, and see what is going on in them. Today I’ll begin with the constituency I live in, Montgomeryshire.

Background

Perhaps a little context for this constituency. It has traditionally been a Liberal / Lib Dem seat with smatterings of Conservatives here and there throughout its history. Prior to the previous election the seat was held by the infamous Lembit Opik. I won’t go into the details why there was a change in 2010, however I will say that the Lib Dems made it easy for the Conservatives.

By no means was this constituency going to be a shock in terms of its outcome, Glyn Davies, the Conservative candidate was always going to win this one. And of course this is the first time a Conservative holds this seat for a second term in succession.

Liberal Democrats

This was a Lib Dem target seat and boy did the leaflets reflect this! At one point I was receiving one or two leaflets a day from

One of many placards
One of many placards

the Lib Dems. If you have driven through Montgomeryshire between 30th of April and 7 of May you would be forgiven for thinking that the Lib Dems were winning here, in fact I’m sure I received some leaflets saying so. The party put everything into winning back this seat, so why did they lose? The main issue at play in the constituency is the fact that it has a very popular local MP in Glyn Davies, so it was always going to be difficult to combat this. Another problem of the Lib Dems here is that they are seen as the pro windfarm party, a stance that does prove unpopular with many. A factor that we cannot ignore, and probably one that will crop up in many other constituencies – the national unpopularity of the Lib Dems.

Conservatives

The success of the Conservatives in Montgomeryshire is probably explained in the fact that Glyn Davies has built upon his popularity by strongly backing the protests against wind farm development in Mid Wales. The Conservatives in the constituency have managed to capture the image of the party of rural Mid Wales, the party of the farmers. Of course, Glyn Davies also enjoyed the national trend which saw the Conservatives gaining many of their target seats and increasing their vote.

UKIP

This is really interesting, as far as I am aware there hasn’t really been a strong local campaign here, I received one leaflet through the post, and that was it. Placards on the side of roads were non existent, and without looking it up I couldn’t tell you who the candidate was. However in this election UKIP probably had the best result they’ve ever had in Montgomeryshire. The party has been hovering around the 3% share of the vote until this year where they have almost quadrupled their share of the vote. This reflects the situation at the national level, they have certainly increased their share of the vote, yet as a result of the first past the post system they will find it hard to translate their share of the vote into seats. I have blogged previously about my views on the voting system, however it would seem that even UKIP now support proportional representation.

In Montgomeryshire UKIP’s success is solely down to the national image of the party rather than the success of the local party.

Labour

Since 1997 Labour has been in decline in Montgomeryshire. This of course has been a result of the relatively popular situation Labour were in in 1997 with their national landslide and the increasing unpopularity of the party in rural Mid Wales. The party is seen as an urban party that doesn’t understand rural society. And of course in Wales the party has been regarded as one that ignores Mid Wales in favour of their South Wales heartlands.

Plaid Cymru

Until 2010 Plaid have seen a small increase in their share of the vote in Montgomeryshire, but never rising above 9%. The 2010 election saw Plaid gaining 8.3% of the vote, a result of an energetic and bright candidate, Heledd Fychan. Even Glyn Davies paid his compliments,

“Again I was impressed by the leg-biting viciousness (accompanied by a lovely smile) of Heledd Fychan. I disagree with a lot she says, but I’m a real fan.”

This year there was some trouble for the Plaid Campaign with Gwynfor Owen, the original candidate having to pull out due to health issues. Ann Griffith, the candidate who took on the challenge did an sterling job in getting the message out, with a few leaflets arriving at my door and a few Plaid placards around the place.  It might be a disappointment for Plaid that their share of the vote decreased this time, however, for a campaign that had to change candidate at the eleventh hour the result wasn’t that bad.

Greens

You would have to go back to 1997 to find the last time the Greens stood in Montgomeryshire. then they gained 1.1% of the vote. Surely, the TV debates had a hand to play here, with the Greens polling at 3.7%.

Election results since 1997

UKIP – are we all euro-skeptics now?

I will be adding a poll to this post below to see how people feel about the EU, please take part in it

UKIP have won!  They are the undisputed champions of the elections and are on course for a landslide next year…  It’s difficult to convey irony in writing sometimes, and amongst the hyperbole of the media today, I’m afraid that it might be lost unless i explain my opening sentence.  You see, according to the media something massive has happened in British politics, and in European politics; UKIP are no longer a protest fringe group, but part of the mainstream.

First of all, I don’t deny that UKIP are a force in British politics now.  Yes, they have increased their vote, and also topped the poll (in England), won 23 seats, and increased their vote by 10.99%. However, is this as significant as many would have you believe?  The European elections are seen by many as a protest vote against the governing party (or parties in the case of this year).  UKIP have done well in the Euro elections since 2004, and the fact remains, they have no MPs and are unlikely to win any Westminster seats; or at least not enough to warrant the tag line ‘Political earthquake’.

If (it seems an increasingly big ‘if’ at this moment) Cameron wins an outright majority next year, and a referendum is held on Europe, then the wind will be taken out of the sails of HMS Farage.  Let’s consider another scenario.  It would seem that this result has forced the mainstream parties to consider Europe and it certainly will be an election issue in 2016, at the least the next UK government will push for EU reform.  If it can be demonstrated that the UK has had a good deal out of any reform, then the rise of UKIP with be stopped in its tracks.

However, can we really say that there is something new here in Wales?  The distribution of seats remains one each for Plaid, Labour, Conservative and UKIP.  Labour remains at the top of the poll, and, in fact was close to gaining another seat.  I would contend this morning’s headline on the BBC News Wales website “Wales’ as Eurosceptic as rest of UK”.  It begins with the same line as all other media outlets, how we’re all Euro-skeptics now, yet it goes on to show that 308,401 (508,143 if you include the Tories) people voted for pro EU parties as opposed to 224,917.  I would say that the majority of the people who voted are pro Europe, wouldn’t you?

And how will all of this affect business in Brussels and Strasbourg?  The truth is, UKIP will not have much sway in the European Parliament, it belongs to the EFD grouping, which (at the time of writing) has 38 seats, making it the smallest grouping in the Parliament.

This is how i see it:

  • UKIP have performed better than last time.
  • It certainly is a protest vote against the governing parties.
  • People want reform of the EU – but not out.
  • UKIP will not win many (if any) seats in Westminster.
  • There will be a danger that an ‘in/out’ referendum will be held where turnout is very low and a decision to leave the EU will be taken by around 15% of the electorate.

 

Simon Thomas to run for leader

https://twitter.com/#!/SimonThomasAber/status/142305618512973824

And soon I shall have a full house!  The third person on my predicted candidates for Plaid Cymru leadership list, which I complied a while ago, has announced that he will be standing.  Former Ceredigion MP, WAG SpAd and current Mid and West Wales regional AM, Simon Thomas has thrown his headwear into the ring.

This has now made things a bit more interesting, two of the candidates are either current of former representatives of one of Wales’ most marginal seats.

In his statement, Simon made it clear (like other candidates) how in touch he is with all of Wales, not just Welsh speaking areas.  Of course, being from Aberdare originally, Simon is the first candidate in this race to have a connection with the Valleys (I believe).

Simon is a left of centre candidate, very much like Elin Jones, and so I must question how will these two individuals win support from a shared pool of natural supporters?

Lets see whether anyone else from my list will step up to the mark?

Plaid Cymru leadership

Well, it has been a quiet summer in politics and on this blog (I was busy getting married, so sorry for no posts).  However, things are beginning to look interesting within Plaid Cymru.  A while ago I blogged about the Plaid leadership race, or non race at the time.  I set a prediction of who might go for the top job after Ieuan Wyn Jones announced that he will be stepping down.  Back then I gave a list of five possibilities, and within days one of the names I listed had thrown their hat into the ring.  However, today comes a new announcement that a second person on my list has made her intentions known.  Today Elin Jones published on her website a statement, clearly indicating that she will run for party leader.

The statement reads very much like a letter of application, however there are some hints of the kind of leader she will be.  She is keen to point out her Socialist and Republican values, as well as her west Wales roots.  How long will we have to wait before we hear who else will officially go for the job?  Not long i would guess.