Closing banks in Rural Wales – Llanidloes

Yesterday, a public meeting was held at Llanidloes Town Hall. It was well attended with local residents and business people. It is clear that the announcement of Barclays’ closure has angered many people.

IMG_0222The situation so far.

Llanidloes Town Council met with Russell George AM on the 7th of August to discuss how to move forward with the situation.

Barclays has agreed to meet with both Russell George and Glyn Davies, however, what is dismaying is the fact that the bank cannot, or probably will not meet with them until the 29th of September. Also, what strikes me as infuriating is the bank’s point blank refusal to meet with any of the residents of Llanidloes to discuss the closure – I for one see this as blatant cowardice.

The bank has attempted to give reasoning for their decision to close in an online document – let’s take a look at this.

  1. 68% of customers “use the other ways of banking”well duh! Of course they do, however, this is not a reason for closing the branch. It is perfectly possible to do some banking online, i.e. transfer money or pay a bill, and then go to a branch for other banking such as pay in a cheque or cash.
  2. 51% of customers of this branch have used neighbouring branches in the last 12 months”. This statistic isn’t qualified in any way. What was the nature of the visits to the neighbouring branches? It is perfectly plausible that the 51% Barclays mention used those other branches only once as they happened to be in those towns.
  3. Between April 2016 and March 2017 there were 21,826 counter transactions at Llanidloes, compared to 26,618 the year before. On the face of it, an 18% drop in transactions is bad, however, the bank doesn’t provide enough data to show a trend – for all we know the average number of transactions might be around 21,000 per year – Barclays should be more open about this.
  4. Barclays have identified only 104 regular customers who use the branch exclusively for their banking. Again, is this a bad thing? Who doesn’t have accounts or savings in different banks? This suggest that there are more than 104 customers at Llanidloes Barclays branch. Once again, Barclays need to be clearer with the statistics here.
  5. According to Barclays change in weekly business transactions were as follows compared to the previous:
  • Counter transactions: -12%
  • Cash Withdrawals: 0%
  • Cash deposits: -13%
  • Cheque deposits: – 13%

At face value this looks terrible, until you look at the actual numbers:

  • Counter transactions: this is only 17 fewer than the previous year.
  • Cash Withdrawals: This is the same as last year
  • Cash deposits: This is only 8 fewer than the previous year
  • Cheque deposits: This is only 9 fewer than the previous year.

What came of this meeting?

First of all, it was heartening to hear that there was not one person in that meeting who was ready to accept this decision. Many raised concerns on how this will effect businesses in the area. The very idea of having to travel to Newtown to bank money is ludicrous! I mean, a 22 mile trip which can easily take well over an hour.

It is very promising to hear that the Town Council has made progress on the issue of getting more ATMs in the town through CashZone. This will make up for losing Barclays ATM come November.

The local MP certainly got a feel of the mood in the town, and was even given an idea by the people there of bringing this issue up at the Welsh Affairs select committee when Parliament convenes; an idea he hadn’t thought of prior.

Points of action for the MP:

  1. Present an Early Day Motion on the issue in Parliament (although he admitted this wouldn’t achieve much apart from drawing attention to it).
  2. Hope to win the ballot to hold a debate on the issue.
  3. Raise this case at the Welsh Affairs Committee
  4. Raise the issue with the Secretary of State for Wales in the hope that he might bring pressure in the bank not to close the branch as soon as November.

Points of action for residents of Llanidloes:

  1. Write to Barclays (name and address will be provided by the clerk of the Town Council) expressing opposition to the closure.
  2. Write to the First Minister (and I think to the local AM and Regional AMs too).
  3. Sign the petition HERE

 

 

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!

What just happened?

What’s going on. More excitement has arguably happened in the Welsh Assembly in the last two days than in the previous 5 years.

Yesterday, a coup happened in the UKIP group. However, today we saw the coronation a blocking of Carwyn Jones as the confirmed First Miinister of Wales. Rhun ap Iorwerth nominated his party leader, Leanne Wood for First Minster. Surprisingly, bith the Tories and Kippers voted for Leanne, giving her the backing of 29 AMs. The exact samr as Carwyn.

What’s it all about?

Of course Plaid don’t aim to govern with 12 AMs. There is no agreement for a rainbow coalition either. This is a nessage to an arrogant Labour party, who wouldnt talk and compromise for support. a minority government that acts like one that has a cleate mandate. with 30% of the vote, they will have to learn to listen. The events of today might remind Labour that its good to talk.


2015 Election Review 3: Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

This is the third in a series of posts on the recent General Election in a few constituencies.  You can catch the first post here and the second one here.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr – Context

This constituency was created in 1997 after the old Carmarthen constituency was split and the west was attached to south Pembrokeshire.

The current political landscape started in 1966 when the constituency saw two elections. After polling 3rd in the March 31st election, Gwynfor Evans of Plaid Cymru went on to win the seat three and a half months later in a by-election. Since then it has been a battlefield between Labour and Plaid with the latter taking the seat in 2001 and holding it to this day.

Plaid Cymru

One of Plaid’s then rising stars, Adam Price was elected in this constituency in 2001 with a swing of 5.4% from Labour’s Alan Williams. Plaid consolidated its situation by increasing its share of the vote from 42.4% in 2001 to 45.9% in 2005. However, in 2010, although holding the seat, Plaid’s share of the vote doped to 35.6%. A factor in this drop has to be down to the fact that Adam Price stood down in 2010 and replaced by Jonathan Edwards. The recent general election saw  gains once again for Plaid with it increasing its share of the vote to 38.4%. The success of Plaid in the county is obvious, and after many years of being the largest party in the council, it has also taken control of it in a coalition with independents after an internal coup in the former ruling party, Labour.

Labour

This seat was high on Labour’s target list of seats they thought they could win. The Labour party in Wales even launched their election campaign in the constituency, with all of the big names there. Their local candidate Callum Higgins had done the rounds in the media, the party was certainly pinning their hopes on him, they wanted to win back this seat after 14 years.  Not only did they fail to gain the seat but they failed to make gains in the vote share either; Labour’s share of the vote was had decreased since 2010 (-2.3%).

Conservatives

Contrary to many constituencies the Conservatives lost their share of the vote here, a far weaker performance than in the western part of the county, which forms its own constituency with south Pembrokeshire. The party wasn’t going to win in the constituency, and it would be obvious that the people of this constituency had clearly rejected parties of austerity.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems haven’t been successful in the constituency (well, the previous constituency) since 1955. Like in many other areas the Lib Dems had a bad night in the Constituency polling at 2.4%.

Greens

Apart from Plaid Cymru,  the Greens were the only other party who increased their vote (2.8%), gaining just over 1,000 votes.

UKIP

The biggest gain was seen by who increased their share of the vote by 7.7%, adding some 3000 votes to their 2010 result. There was some confusion surrounding whether their candidate had been removed as their candidate or not for financial irregularities in the local branch account. UKIP Wales said in a statement

 “The allegations relate to the management of a branch’s bank account of which the member is a signatory”

As it turns out London HQ told them that they were wrong and so Norma Woodward remained in position.

 

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

 

 

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.

Ieuan to go

Picture: Plaid Cymru

So, Ieuan Wyn Jones has announced that he will go in the first half of this Assembly term. I doubt I’m the first one to raise the question, “who will be in the running?”

First of all I should consider whether this is a good thing for the Party.  I was intending to wait until Carwyn Jones had announced his government before blogging about why Ieuan should go.  Yes, Ieuan led the party into a coalition government for the first time, and had served as Deputy First Minister from 2007 to 2011.  And yes it was Plaid with him at the helm who secured a referendum on ‘more powers to Wales’ – all of which, achievements and milestones.

However, between 2000 and 2011, Plaid has slipped from a strong second Party in Welsh politics, to a weak third.  1999 was a strong showing, maybe a swell of support for due to the creation of the new Assembly, and a sense of pride in our new fledgling democracy.  However the following 3 election weren’t to live up to the success of the first.  It is certainly time for Plaid

Eleven years is a very long time to lead a party, and it certainly time for Ieuan to step aside.  Plaid needs to identify its purpose, what will its role be in this decade?  What is the next step in the national project?  So, who then could possibly take over from Ieuan?

Here are, who I think could be contenders (in no particular preference):

Rhodri Glyn Thomas:  This would not be a step forward for the Party.  I believe this would be much of the same, it would be a continuation of what we’ve had over the last decade.  However, he could be a possible stop-gap untill 2016, when Adam Price might return to Welsh politics.

Simon Thomas:  Although he is a newbie to the Assembly, a novice he is not.  Former MP and special advisor to the previous Welsh government, Simon certainly could be what Plaid needs to take it forward.

Leanne Wood: Could Leanne, who is on the left-wing of the Party, win enough support to lead the Party.  A few have already suggested that she could be what the Party needs to win in the Valleys and North East Wales.  I for one don’t think that it’ll be as easy as that.

Dafydd Elis Thomas:  Of course lets not forget the former Presiding officer.  Never one to shy away, could Dafydd be tempted to take the leadership once again?  He’s already said how Plaid worked well with Labour, could Plaid under him find itself in perpetual coalition with Labour?

Elin Jones: One of the Plaid ministers in the previous Government, I think Elin would be a popular leader with both left and right in the party.

Or could there be a surprise contender?  Interesting times.