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?

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!

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.


Opening access to local democracy

A year or two ago, I blogged a lot about getting local councils to transmit their meetings online, for voters to see what was going on. This was sparked by the event of @caebrwyn being arrested for filming at a council meeting at Carmarthenshire county hall.

I found it strange that a council would go to the trouble of calling the police on someone filming a meeting, which was open to the public. Surely the public should be allowed to see and hear what was being discussed and decided in their name at county hall.

As a result of this, I, and a few others went about making requests under the freedom of information act for information on what councils were doing to allow filming, and broadcasting in council meetings. As I recall, it was allowed at the discretion of the chairperson, although few councils bothered to broadcast their meetings online.

It was good to read this article today, and encouraging to see that more councils are now attempting to use the internet to open access to local democracy. This certainly makes democracy far more transparent, especially at the level that impacts on citizen’s every day lives.  It would seem that £1.25m will be available to install broadcasting equipment at county halls.

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.

Anglesey Council and the right to film

Yesterday I received a reply to my FOI request from Anglesey regarding their stance on filming, tweeting and blogging at their meetings (Link below).  To put it simply, Anglesey has no policy nor any standing orders regarding filming at council meetings.  However in an e-mail released under the request it is made clear that “Historically,it is unlikely that the recording of public meetings by the public would be tolerated.”  It does, however concede that media are allowed in to film beginning of meetings (councillors entering etc.)

It is, however, to note that the council are piloting audio recordings which will be put on their websites, post meeting. Why pilot audio and not film?  It is also worth noting that the arrest in Carmarthenshire of @caebrwyn has gained the attention of council officers in Anglesey at least.

FOI Anglesey

Plaid Cymru councillors to challenge filming rule


I’m glad to hear that there are some movement out there on the issue of filming at council meetings.  It would seem that Plaid Cymru councillors in Wrexham will seek to scrap Standing Order 45 (page 4-18), which prohibits council meetings without the chair’s permission.

Here’s what the standing order says,


Proceedings at meetings may not be photographed, videoed, sound recorded or transmitted in any way outside the meeting without prior permission of the Chair. Failure to comply with this Standing Order may invoke Standing Orders 14 and 15 relating to Disorderly Conduct and Disturbance by members of the public.”

This is something Rhondda Cynon Taff should consider doing also.

Rhondda Cynon Taff, says maybe if you ask

After submitting nineteen FOI requests to Welsh councils, I have heard back form one.  Rhondda Cynon Taff have recently amended their constitution (20.1)  to include the following rule on filming and taking photographs at their council meetings:

“Proceedings at meetings may not be photographed, videoed, sound recorded or transmitted in anyway outside the meeting without prior permission of the Mayor. Failure to comply with this rule may invoke Rule 19.4 (Members to leave meeting) and 20.1 (Removal of members of the public).”

So what would happen to you under rule 20.1? Well the following…

“If a member of the public interrupts proceedings, the Mayor will warn the person concerned. If they continue to interrupt, the Mayor will order their removal from the meeting room.”

It is unclear how holding a phone (or any recording equipment) up in the public gallery could “interrupt proceedings”.  It is also unclear on what criteria the mayor will allow or disallow filming at council meetings.  I have replied to the council to clarify this point, and I am currently awaiting a reply.

Get askin’ them questions!

After hearing the terrible way Carmarthenshire County council treated a Jacqui Thompson and seeing that a FOI request was sent to the council in question about their policies on blogging, tweeting, and filming at council meetings, I thought it would be great to see how each of Wales’ 22 councils treat these issues.  So I have already put a request into my council, Powys.  I urge you to do so with your council.