The two politicians and the two independent candidates for the post of police and crime commissioner (PCC) for the South Wales area were interviewed for half-an-hour by Vaughan Roderick on BBC-Wales’ “Sunday Supplement” this morning. The Web page for this programme is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nly4r.
The outcome illustrated many of the flaws in the whole Conservative experiment. (It should be remembered that the United States of America, where the system originated, has given up on electing their police commissioners.) I would single out Alun Michael for an unashamedly party political approach – virtually all his answers included an attack on the coalition government. Caroline Jones, to be fair, began with a non-party pitch, but was dragged into a partisan fight by Michael’s approach. One is still disappointed by her support for not only the PCC concept, but also the bias in the electoral process to those candidates with money behind them.
There is a BBC summary of the candidates here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19509951
The candidates’ web-sites are:
I still object, largely on moral grounds, to a system which involves students taking on a lifetime debt in order to undertake a university course. I would much prefer reverting to the system of state and local authority grants which I grew up with, even if this means that less than Tony Blair’s target of 50% of young people go to university. It is a pity that Liberal Democrats were outnumbered ten-to-one on this issue in parliament after the 2010 election, but having bitten the bullet Vince Cable and his team at BIS worked hard to take as much of the pain away as they could. The first thing that the coalition agreed upon, of course, was that tuition fees would be capped at £9000 instead of the unlimited amount proposed by Labour’s Browne report.
As this 24-minute video, Student funding from 2012 by money expert Martin Lewis, explains, the new system is better in many ways than the one inherited from Labour. All students will be repaying less per year, if they have to repay anything at all. Part-time students will no longer have to pay tuition fees up front. Lewis also voices a few criticisms; I would add that if inflation is to be used at all in calculating repayment interest, then CPI rather than RPI be used.
But Lewis explains it all much better than I could. Enjoy.
If I could afford the trip to probably the most expensive conference town, I would put up with the excessive security arrangements. The two factors together, however, mean that I shall be watching proceedings on BBC-Parliament.
There will also be coverage, which I predict will be occasionally critical, on Liberal Democrat Voice.
I have only just learned that Peter went into hospital for a major heart operation at the end of August. I know he reads this blog (or used to when I was also a community councillor), so will take this opportunity to hope that all went well and that he is back to his best form. Perhaps he or his family could let us know how he is getting on, either by using the comment link here or emailing me, frankhlittle by hotmail.com.
The Labour-run Welsh Government is to follow the lead of Conservative ministers in England in making it easier for developers to secure planning permission. I have some sympathy with my former fellows on Neath Port Talbot’s planning and development committee who are going to have to rubber-stamp yet more developments in spite of local opposition. One hopes that the new planning guidelines will also give more freedom to home-owners attempting to improve their property. At present, decisions by the committee can seem arbitrary giving rise to the suspicion that success or failure depends on the closeness of the applicant to the ruling group.
But the difficulty in kick-starting construction is not down to lack of planning permissions. As the Local Government Association spokesman pointed out on BBC News this morning, there is a large backlog of permissions throughout England and Wales upon which no action has been taken. The stagnation arises from the failure of investment and in particular the failure of the banks to lend. What might help the process is extra powers for the county borough to force successful applicants to exercise their permissions within no more than a couple of years – “use it or lose it”, in other words. At the same time, something should be done about abandoned developments, like the eyesore of the old Liberal club in Victoria Gardens.
The GMB trade union has issued a statement that a ballot of its members has produced a 95% vote in favour of the renegotiated local government pension scheme (LGPS). Unfortunately, the Financial Times report does not give a figure for turnout. Even so, this results augurs well for agreement across the board, including the rather more militant -and party political – Unison.
I’ve just learned via Facebook of the death of Cllr Mal Gunter, a man I came to like and respect during his mayoralty of the county borough, which coincided with my first year as a councillor. No doubt there will be full tributes in the local media, so I will add just one personal memory. When Baroness Scott of Needham Market paid a visit to Neath as part of her campaign for the presidency of the Liberal Democrats (which was ultimately successful), I asked the mayor’s office whether there would be any problems in Ros Scott sitting in the public gallery during the council meeting which had been arranged for the same afternoon as her visit. Not only did Mal raise no objections, but Ros, her partner Mark and I were invited to the mayor’s parlour for tea and cakes and a pleasant chat with Mal and the leader of the council. There was some twitting about political differences I seem to recall, but much more common ground about the problems of local government.
Mal’s family, friends and relations have my deepest sympathy.
Perhaps it is too much to hope for a stage 3, of rebuilding the Neath-Brecon line for electric trains.
A £2.6m fund designed to help disabled people to overcome barriers to becoming councillors, MPs or other elected representatives was launched last week by Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister in the coalition government. The money will help meet the additional costs a disabled candidate may face in standing for election.
The new fund will be open for applications until March 2014. Support will first apply to the election of Police and Crime Commissioners in November this year.