Thursday, 23 November 2017

Should there be a seperate "English" budget?

When David Cameron introduced English Votes for English laws he may have unwittingly  set a precedent that may in future  lead to there being to Budgets in the House of Commons

A UK budget followed by a Budget  for England  only.

  When the BBC announces  a

Budget gives extra £1.2bn to Wales and promises growth deals

Its only after further readin that Chancellor Phillip Hammond has said the Welsh Government will get an extra £1.2bn over four years as a result of his Budget.
The money will come to Wales because of extra spending on projects in England - under the so-called Barnett formula.

The cash amounts to a rise of around 2% in the Welsh Government's budget.
Welsh ministers said the additional cash would "do little to ease the pressure" on public services struggling after "successive cuts to our budget".

It has long been said that Wales benefits from the Barnet t formula  and is being subsidised by England .
But is this really true.

As Mabon ap Gwynfor points out
Hammond boasts that they have the two largest infrastructure projects in Europe: Crossrail and HS2, neither of which benefits Wales, both of which benefits London, yet we pay for them.
 But is that also not indicative of the whole UK budget? 

If Hammond or any English Chancellor  wishes to spend more money on the NHS he can raise money by raising taxes or national insurance payments , but he can also cut other services .

Unlike Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland  this includes such thingd in the defence budget   but also in many more areas that are not devolved,

Even if Wales   receives  an increase in its Barnett formula allocation as a result of the Chancellor increasing NHS spending  in England they may have to spend it elsewhere  in areas like Education.

If there was an English Budget we  would get a clear  indication on how infrastructure  projects are  being allocated and how this is going to be paid for for?

Even when it is clear that  Crossrail and HS2,are of no intermediate benefit to Wales t is part of UK spending and we have little say in it.

If we had a clear separation of a UK budget from one that is solely for the benefit of English voters  we may have more of an idea whether Wales is really  being subsidised s by England or starved of investment.

Of course we will still have the argument that what benefits the City of London benefits  the rest of the UK.

But an "English" budget  would not only allow the devolved governments  to see where the money is going, but also those in England in areas outside London and  the South East  a chance to note how they are also being left out.



Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Answer the Question Carwyn.

I tend to agree with Vaughan Roderick's verdict of   Welsh First Minister's Questions that Poor questioning and a missed opportunity for the opposition parties over allegations of bullying in the Welsh Government, says the BBC's Welsh Affairs editor Vaughan Roderick.

 Though  I an not sure we would have got any more derails from the evasive First Minister.

He was asked by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood to say what issues exactly were raised with him in 2014 and what he had done about them.
He responded: 

“There were issues of competing priorities, of people feeling that some people were listened to more than others. They are feelings of people feeling that they want to see you as First Minister to explain their position.
“These are all the normal processes of Cabinet, and it would be very odd if any Cabinet was in place where nobody ever disagreed, it would be very odd if a Cabinet was in place where people were in a position where they didn’t feel they wanted to make their views known in a particular way to the First Minister.
“Yes, there are always tensions in any Cabinet, and surely any party leader will recognise that. What’s hugely important is that the tensions don’t get in the way of good governance – and they haven’t got in the way of good governance.”
  "People were sometimes unhappy with the way things happened.
"Were there competing priorities and complaints of that nature - of course there were.
"Did people sometimes feel others were more favoured - of course they did. That happens in any organisation.
"In politics, where these matters are even felt more intensely than in most other places, and people are very passionate about what they believe in, then that will be the situation.
"At the heart of our democracy is the notion of competition. There will always be tension - everyone in this chamber will recognise that, particularly my fellow party leaders."
Asked by Andrew RT Davies whether issues of bullying had been raised specifically with him in 2014, Mr Jones said:

 “I am aware of comments that have been made to the Press.
“All I can say about those comments is that no specific allegation of bullying was ever presented to me in relation to those comments either formally or informally.”
Mr Davies asked the First Minister whether the Labour group would be supporting the Tory motion that he should be subjected to a detailed scrutiny session by AMs.

Mr Jones responded:

 “There are a number of ways in which this issue can be dealt with. We reserve our position in terms of the vote next week. It will be studied carefully, of course. I do accept that this is an issue that will need further scrutiny.
“I’m not afraid of that scrutiny. I think it’s a question of finding out what is the most effective way for that scrutiny to be exercised.”
So Carwyn's defence now seems to be that  because there was apparently no use of the word bullying when these accusation were made then he  did not mislead the Siambr .

This was not god enough for Plaid Am Simon Thomas

Speaking to journalists, Mr Thomas,  said:

“The First Minister lied either in 2014 or last week.

"In 2014, in response to a written question, he said no allegations had been received. Last week he said those issues were dealt with at the time ... The two positions are incompatible.

"You can’t say you dealt with issues in 2014 and then say there were no allegations. Clearly – this is detective work, but it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?, the allegations in 2014 were the ones that Leighton Andrews made.
"Leighton Andrews has gone on record and has publicly stated that he informally reported bullying allegations to the First Minister in 2014, and they were in relation to Carl Sargeant.
“He denied that at the time and then last week tried to obfuscate his way in a QC-ly way out of that position.”

Never heard the word QC-ly before  but like the UK Prime Minister (and those before her) those who watch both farces of FMQ's and PMQ's  may wel find themselves at time  shouting  at the TV  "answer the bloody question"

We are clearly not going to find answers in the Siambr and only a full enquiry  will tell us the facts and even exonerate the First Minister.

The heart of democracy that the First Minister described above demands full scrutiny  from such an enquiry and full answers from our  evasive  First Minister,

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Tory MP uses same excuse as Salmond.

The sheer hypocrisy  over former  MP and SNP leader Alex Salmond has been exposed with news that A number of prominent British MPs have defended receiving hefty pay checks for speaking appearances on the broadcaster RT, formerly Russia Today, which some believe is a biased propaganda outlet that exists to regurgitate Kremlin talking points.
At least 10 members of parliament have been paid up to £1,000 an hour for appearing on various RT shows, The Guardian newspaper reported Saturday (18 November).
The government's register of interests showed that a number of MPs including Welsh Conservative MP David Davies, Labour's David Lammy and outspoken Respect MP George Galloway are all well-funded for working with the controversial news outlet.
David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, who was paid £750 an hour plus travel costs for four appearances between last December and September, said he had no regrets about appearing on one of the channel’s shows, Sam Delaney’s News Thing.
“The News Thing has given me a fair chance to explain my opinions on Brexit immigration and transgender issues, for which I am grateful,” Davies said. “Sadly, I have not received the same courtesy from the British Broadcasting Corporation. Instead, on several occasions, its highly paid presenters have criticised me by name without giving me a right of response.”
So it appears David Davies  excuse  is exactly the same as Salmond's in that t gave him an opportunity  to express views that may not be heared on the mainstream media.

Whether Mr Davies  believes that it is OK for him to use RT as a platform for his reactionary  opinions but  that should not apply to a progressive like Alex Salmond  is a moot  point.

Though I expect that the Unionist from both the Left and Right  real objection is giving a Scottish Nationalist  air time.

Other have taken "Moscow Gold",

According to the Guardian

 Mike Freer, now an assistant government whip, who was paid £1,000 an hour for two appearances in January and April last year, told the Jewish Chronicle: “I appeared on Sam Delaney’s News Thing, an independent production that is satirical in nature. I went on to poke fun at [Vladimir] Putin, which I did.”
However, Labour’s David Lammy, who, according to his register of members interests was paid £1,000 for two hours of his time on two occasions, is understood to have ruled out further appearances, despite being asked on an almost weekly basis.Many MPs appeared reluctant to discuss their appearances, including Labour newcomer Rosie Duffield, who was paid £500 for three hours for her appearance on the channel; Tory MP Johnny Mercer, a former soldier, who received £1,000 for three hours of his time on two separate occasions; and the former deputy speaker, Tory MP Nigel Evans, who was paid £750 an hour on two occasions.Duffield defended her appearance on Twitter. Last month she tweeted: “Worked on Sam Delaney’s show in July, paid by production company, not RT.”The biggest earner was the former Respect MP George Galloway, who, between November 2013 and February 2015, was paid more than £100,000 to front his own show on RT. It is unclear how much the former first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, now hosting a talkshow on the channel, will earn.
I suspect many more MPs would have appeared on RT if they believed  that t had a wider audience  and  (probably more likely) paid more.

The objection over Alex Salmond show on RT has really been fuelled by Unionist not wanting a  Scottish Nationalist  to have any platform.
They are content to see Nigel Farage  seemingly having a parking place  at the BBC news HQ, Though it appears that William Rees-Mogg has seemingly replaced him as Right Wing Nut Job.
Mind you suspect the canny Mr Salmond  will not be to worried about the Unionist negative publicity as it undoubtedly increase those tuning in to his RT show.

Monday, 20 November 2017

"Scottish" Labour elect new Bungee Managers

As we in Cymru await the likelihood of "Welsh" Labour  fighting the next Welsh Assembly Parliamentary election under a new leader , our friends are coming to terms with "Scottish" Labour Branch Office have announced their latest in a long line of Scott Adams Dilbert's Bungee Managers.

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

Scottish Labour has announced Richard Leonard as its new party leader after a bitter battle to succeed Kezia Dugdale, who resigned from the role in August.
Party members had to choose between centrist Anas Sarwar and his left-wing rival Richard Leonard.
The contest has been marred by personal attacks, accusations of plots and claims of underhand voting tactics.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the result could lead to Scottish Labour becoming "a real force for change".

Mr Leonard spoke immediately after the announcement in Glasgow.

He said he hoped a "new generation" would help lead a new movement that was also "founded on our old and enduring idealism".

"That is the unity we can rally around, not simply a call for unity but around a renewed unity of purpose," he said.
"Our purpose today is not just to elect a leader. My aim is to be the next Labour first minister of Scotland."

He has argued that people are "hungry for change", but believes that can only be delivered through "socialism and democracy" rather than "nationalism or patriotism."
And he has firmly ruled out any prospect of a future coalition with the SNP, saying 
there will be no ground ceded to nationalism at the expense of progressive socialism under my leadership".

So don't expect any calls for further autonomy for Labour's  Scottish Branch or any increase in powers for the Scottish Parliament .

Indeed it looks like Corbyn's "Bungee Manager" will spend his time attacking the SNP even when it is clear they are pushing forward progressive socialism whilst  Labour in the Welsh Assembly are content to simply rearange the furniture.

So attacks on the SNP rather than the Tories for not doing enough , whilst not mentioning that in Cymru they do bugger all despite being in power since devolved power began,

Mr Leonard appointment  comes just as Scottish Labour’s stand-in leader has been suspended from the party while an investigation is conducted into allegations that he bombarded his former partner with abusive messages during a three-year harassment campaign.

Alex Rowley, the Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, said he “totally” rejected the accusations and would “take all necessary steps to clear my name”. He said that he would step aside as both interim and deputy leader in the meantime.
But Scottish Labour later went further by withdrawing the party whip from him in the Scottish Parliament “in light of the serious nature of the allegations.”

Meanwhile a leading Labour MSP has strongly criticised his former leader for taking part in a reality television show.

Neil Findlay, a prominent supporter of the new Scottish Labour leade said Kezia Dugdale's participation in ITV's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here was "ludicrous".

Rumours that Ms Dugdale  wil emerge from the jungle only to cross the floor and join her current partner on the SNP benches may not be totally out of the question,

Having both your predecessors suspended from the party  just as you get your feet under the table may be seen as an opportunity   for the Corbynist  to purge the Scottish Parliamentary party not only of any lingering Blarites , but also any MSPs who took the "Vow" seriously ,


Can Mr Leonard   make the party a credible challenger to the SNP in time for the next Scottish Parliament election in 2021?

On current evidence even surviving in the job that long would be something of an achievement, given that the winner will become the party's fourth leader in little over three years.

We here in Cymru are probably going to see a similar leadership contest sooner  than later, we should be looking towards Scotland to see what that mean in the months ahead.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Yesterday I left the Stadium ashamed of Welsh Rugby.

If last weekend was most embarrassing ever for Welsh Rugby it seems yesterday 's match against Georgia surpassed it.

Wales held on to beat Georgia in an extraordinary finish at a tense Principality Stadium.

After a promising start  Warren Gatland's experimental team took a 10-0 lead thanks to Hallam Amos' try but Georgia defended well and were predictably powerful in the forwards.

Amos was denied a second try when what was at first looked like a superb  score was disalowed.

That may have   opened the floodgates but Soso Matiashvili's boot had them within four points after 50 minutes.
Rhys Priestland's penalty calmed nerves but Georgia were frustrated late on by uncontested scrums being called with Wales' Tomas Francis in the sin-bin.

The game was already into stoppage time, with Wales leading 13-6, when the controversy began.
Georgia were pressing hard on the home line for the try that could have earned them a famous draw.

This from  the  Wasting Mule

Then replacement Wales prop Tomas Francis was penalised for driving into the back of scrum-half Giorgi Begadze at a ruck and shown a yellow card by French referee Mathieu Raynal.

That’s when things got really complicated.

Georgia were eager to opt for a scrum off the penalty. It had been an area of strength for them during the game and they would now be up against just seven Welsh forwards.
So the logical thing would have been for the hosts to bring Leon Brown back on to pack down at tighthead instead of Francis, with another forward making way for him.

Brown had come off in the 56th minute in what appeared to be a tactical change. Both he and fellow subbed prop Nicky Smith were down on the touchline in their kit, rather than tracksuits.

But it soon became apparent that something was up, with the fourth official coming onto the field to speak to Raynal.

And after their discussion, it was hooker Kristian Dacey rather than either of the props who entered the fray, with No 8 Seb Davies coming off.
The announcement was made over the tannoy at this point that there would be uncontested scrums, with Wales only having one prop - Wyn Jones - on the field.

But, taking this into consideration, Georgia then changed tack and opted to kick to the corner, with their final attack ultimately repelled and the hosts hanging on for a 13-6 win.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland said:

 "We were as confused as anyone at the end.

"Leon [Dragons prop Brown] had cramped up, his calves were no good. When we took him off it was tactical but we knew he was cramping.
"I can promise you there was nothing from our point of view to manipulate the laws. If Leon had been fit he would have gone back on."

Georgia head coach Milton Haig said: 

 "We would have got over from that scrum, absolutely. And from what happened I think they (Wales) were pretty confident about that and that's why they went for uncontested scrums. We would have backed ourselves there.
"There's perhaps a need to look at how those situations are officiated. We would have liked that scrum at the end of the game, that's for sure."
Haig said that they did not intend to seek action over Wales' claim that they could not field a prop at the end.

I was at the match and  believe Georgia had brought on a already substituted prop  before the Welsh  "tactics"  which would have probably increased their chances.

So maybe Georgia also were opportunist in  their replacement  moves?

I was not influenced by any media commentary but that did not mean that I left the ground not feeling ashamed of  the actions of the Welsh management.

We won very few  friends yesterday and Georgia have every right to be bitter.

What we need is a ruling that replacements  when substituted   should be declared either a tactical move and therefore could return or deemed  unfit to play.and will not take any further part in the game.

It is probably unenforceable because medical assessors are not going to declare a player fit  if they  are could end up with a serious injury   but the current rules seem not to be working.

I am sure most supporters would agree however that they would rather win by the actions of their team on the field rather than manipulating  the rules off it.


Saturday, 18 November 2017

£2.3m increase in assembly commission budget is a unjustified.

It is something indicative  that there is a planned £2.3m increase to the budget of the organisation that runs the assembly.
The argument that it is needed is strong, but can it be justified as cuts are being made in all areas of Welsh Government?

The assembly commission budget rise of 4.3% has prompted criticism from local government, which faces a 0.5% cut.

 The leader of Wales’ biggest council has described an inflation-busting rise in the running costs of the National Assembly as a “joke” while frontline services face cuts.
Cardiff council’s Huw Thomas said that if councils spent money on themselves rather than public services there “would rightly be an outcry”.

He was speaking after AMs approved a £2.3 million increase in the budget for the body which manages the Senedd, called the Assembly Commission.

The Commission, which is run by a cross-party group of senior AMs, will have a budget of £56.1 million in 2018-19.

The hike has divided AMs themelves. Finance Committee chair Simon Thomas (Plaid) said any increase was “hard to justify” but Tory AM Suzy Davies said it was needed to ensure effective scrutiny.

She said that working had to be “as efficient as possible” while supporting members in their roles.
Labour AM Mr Hedges said: “I do not accept that the Commission of this Assembly can be immune to the austerity that the rest of the public services in Wales is facing”.
Ms Davies said that efficiencies have been made and that “corsets are being tightened”.

Suzy Davies is right but of course that should apply  to all areas if government 

The rise is equivalent to a 3.4% hike while councils in Wales are facing a 0.5% cut in the funding they get from the Welsh Government next year.
Cardiff, which has a rising population, is the only authority to get an increase.

Coun Thomas said:

 “I am concerned. It is not the time for the Assembly Commission to be voting itself an inflation busting pay increase or budget increase.
“This is not the Welsh Government that has voted for this, it’s the Assembly Commission. There are several Welsh Government departments also facing cuts.
“The Assembly is getting three times more cash to deliver the services in the Assembly than we need to deliver services we need in Cardiff.
“I struggle to see the logic. I noted the cross party comments from Mike Hedges, Simon Thomas and Vikki Howells expressing concern at this and there have been other commentators too.

“I thought there would be a change after this was discussed in the media some months ago but it seems they’re getting all of it.
“If local authorities were spending this amount of money on themselves, on member services, there would rightly be an outcry. I simply think this money could be better spent across Wales”.

Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas spoke on behalf of the Assembly’s Finance Committee. He said:

 “The budget before us does ask for an increase that’s above inflation and above the expected increase in the Welsh block grant.
“Whilst we have stopped short of recommending changes to the requested increase for the next financial year, the committee firmly believes that in the remaining years of this Assembly, the commission budget should not be in excess of the Welsh block grant.
“Against a background of continued cuts to public services, we believe it’s hard to justify any increase in Assembly spending. As an Assembly we must recognise any increase given to the Commission in our name is taken from the Welsh Consolidated fund and this impacts on other public services in Wales”.

Mr Thomas said that the committee planned an enquiry into how other Parliaments budget for member services.

The motion was agreed with no objections.

Back in 2015 assembly members  a £10,000 pay rise after the body in charge of setting their salaries approved the plan.
It means backbenchers’ pay  rose from £54,000 to £64,000 after next year’s Assembly elections.

At the same time local governments  are cutting budgets (including staff and pay) to the bone 

We should be opposing all the Austerity cuts, but when they are being past on down the line those doing so should realise that they need to set an example.

There is not a elected body in Wales (including the Assembly) that can't make a solid case for an increase in the money it receives from the legislature above it.  
 But if you are cutting  the grant to those below you you should realise that you can't argue that you are  "a special case" and not take your share of the burden.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Jeremy Corbyn has made the Cardiff Declaration meaningless.

I wonder if any of the representatives from more than 20 EU regions will make the call in a declaration in Cardiff on Thursday.ales must be able to participate in future European programmes if the UK government fails to reach a Brexit deal, politicians from across Europe have insisted asked the Welsh First Minister why his party at Westminster this week abstained on a proposal that could have given the Welsh Assembly power to veto key Brexit legislation which resulted in it overwhelmingly rejected by MPs.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said he was "not trying to undo Brexit".
But he stressed that shared interests with European counterparts "must be prioritised in the negotiations".

The meeting was attended by political representatives from countries including Germany, France and Ireland, and Scottish counterparts, as part of the Conference for Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR).

 The first minister joined  those representatives in signing the "Cardiff Declaration", which calls on the European Commission to "open the possibility for the UK devolved administrations to participate directly in future EU programmes and co-operation" in the event of a no-deal scenario

The declaration underlines a "strong interest" in seeing Wales continue to participate in successor programmes to Horizon 2020 (research and innovation), Erasmus+ (education and training), and Creative Europe (culture) after Brexit.
It also states that the CPMR "regrets but respects" the Brexit vote and highlights "the importance of reaching agreement on the financial obligations of the UK".

Mr Jones said:
 "Bringing together representatives from across the regions of Europe and signing the 'Cardiff Declaration' demonstrates our intention to collaborate with our European partners.
"Wales remains open, outward facing and international in outlook and Brexit will not change that.
"While we have been consistently clear that we are not trying to undo Brexit, we have a range of shared interests, from trade to protecting the rights of UK and EU citizens, which must be prioritised in the negotiations.
"This event and our joint declaration demonstrate that while Brexit has an impact on all European countries and regions, it must not become a stumbling block to our established strong relations that benefit us all."

Such a declaration would surely have been empowered if Plaid Cymru's Welsh Veto amendment had passed or even if it had not, Labour support and the majority of Welsh MPs backing it would result it some kudos given to the leader in Wales when he signed the so called Cardiff Declaration.

Indeed the true leader in Wales is the same as  that in London  one Jeremy Corbyn who supports Brexit and certainly  does not want Welsh and Scottish  devolved interests taken into account which  may whilst not stop it mitigate  some of the worst aspects .

Indeed it is  well worth noting that Jeremy Corbyn is as one  with
Conservative Monmouth MP David Davies said it was "starting to seem as though the Welsh Labour Party is batting for the other side on Brexit". and making sure that they obey thier masters in London.

Mr Davies said.
"The people of Bridgend [Mr Jones's constituency], like the people of Wales and the UK as a whole, voted to leave the European Union and the sooner the Welsh Government can adapt to that reality the better for Welsh businesses and families alike,"
OK but surely  that means that we have an input so that Brexit reflects the interest of the whole of the UK and not just the South East of England  as will be the inevitable  result of an Hard Brexit.

This week there was an opportunity for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland  to make a case for their interest taken into account.

 It may also have led to English MPs outside London and the South East to put forward their concerns.

But it was lost . Whether  Labour backing the amendment could have been won is a moot point, What was clear that for all the calls from the Welsh First Minister  for Wales to have a say his leader in London has made sure it will not happen.