Archive for October, 2008

Celebrating personal growth

Posted: October 30, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Who couldn’t enjoy Western Mail’s ‘Fast Growth 50’, its magazine round-up of the most successful companies in Wales?
Certainly not Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, academic, Western Mail business guru, creator of the ‘Fast Growth 50’ programme and, yes, blogger.
A full-page of the 34-page magazine is devoted to a celebration of this “passionate champion who is ahead of his time”.
He’s a man of many talents, there is no denying. After all, who was the editor of ‘Fast Growth 50’?
Why, none other than Professor Dylan Jones-Evans!

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Energy Watch 2

Posted: October 23, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Welsh Lib Dem Mick Bates today called on the Welsh Assembly Government to form an urgent Cabinet task group to tackle fuel poverty.
It is estimated that 340,000 people in Wales will be living in fuel poverty this winter due to rising fuel costs.
Fuel poverty is defined as having to spend more than 10 per cent of household income on fuel.
Mr Bates, the party spokesperson for the environment, has written to the First Minister Rhodri Morgan urging him to form a task group so that ministers in key departments can use monies in their own portfolios to tackle the issue.
He also condemned energy companies on their lack of clarity and clear information on what they spend in Wales to reduce fuel poverty.
Speaking after a Sustainability Committee meeting which heard evidence from npower, Scottish and Southern, British Gas, E.ON, Scottish Power and EDF Energy, Mr Bates said: “It was very difficult to pin down exactly what they are doing to help the thousands of families who live in fuel poverty in Wales – it was like knitting fog.
“Energy companies should be compelled to put some of their huge profits back into insulating the homes of their poorest customers so that people can afford to heat their homes this winter without the worry of high fuel bills.”

Big Issue Cymru

Posted: October 22, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones is to investigate whether The Big Issue – which recently located much of its Wales operation to Scotland – is receiving funding from the Welsh Language Board.
Responding to a letter from Leanne Wood AM outlining her concerns about the company’s decision to make its Wales editor redundant, Mr Jones said he shared her concern about the future of Welsh language content in the magazine.
“I am also concerned with the intention to move Big Issue Cymru jobs to Glasgow,” he said. “It is important to safeguard Welsh language content in the magazine. I will therefore ask the Welsh Language Board to investigate this issue further and will get back to you on this matter.
“I understand that Big Issue Cymru has applied in the past to the Welsh Language Board to fund the Welsh language content in the magazine but there has been no contact recently.”

William Hague – a bargain at £16,000?

Posted: October 20, 2008 in Uncategorized
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A night out with accountants might not be to everyone’s cup of tea, but the South Wales Chartered Accountants’ Awards Dinner went with a swing.
Its success, I understand, was down in no small part to its guest speaker, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague MP.
Mr Hague, I’m told, was worth every penny paid for Thursday’s 45-minute talk at City Hall, Cardiff.
I say ‘penny’, his rumoured remuneration was a little more generous… £16,000, anyone?
One of the event sponsors, by the way, was Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets. Credit crunch. What credit crunch!

Behind the blank statements on St Athan

Posted: October 16, 2008 in Uncategorized
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There was a very upbeat tale in the South Wales Echo yesterday, describing the military training privatisation at St Athan as “‘on track”.
There had been fears that the huge project in the Vale of Glamorgan could fall victim to the worldwide economic crisis, the Echo reported, but Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth had told the House of Commons on Tuesday that “considerable progress has been made in driving down costs and towards achieving affordable, value for money.
“Package one is on track for an investment decision in the spring of next year, with contract signature expected approximately 15 months later.”
The new base is now being called the Defence Technical Academy, as opposed to the Defence Training Academy (name changes are always a sign of trouble), but Vale of Glamorgan MP John Smith, has hit out at “the negative rumours that have been bandied about by doom-and-gloom merchants”.
“The minister’s statement confirms what I have always maintained, that St Athan is the only location that will provide technical training for all our armed forces in a high-quality bespoke environment and purpose-built facilities,” Mr Smith said.
And a spokesman for the Metrix Consortium of private companies behind the academy said greyly: “We are pleased with the progress that has been made so far and look forward to working closely with the MoD to deliver the Package One programme and the Defence Technical Academy in St Athan.”
However, over at the Defence Management Journal, the experts paint a very different picture – and rabid leftie peaceniks those boys ain’t.
They are, however, “doom-and-gloom merchants”, describing the Government’s Defence Training Review (DTR) as “oft-delayed, over budget and controversial” – all elements of the DTR which have been regularly reported at What Is Wales?
“Numerous MPs have told Defence Management that the DTR’s funding is heavily reliant on the sales of vacant MoD properties,” it reported yesterday. “The current financial crisis has not allowed the MoD to do this which has delayed a final financial agreement.
“The project is believed to already be £1bn over budget and Metrix and the MoD are reviewing extensive cuts to the programme. Ainsworth told parliament that even the alternatives such as moving the DTR to a central location in the West Midlands would be just as expensive if not more costly.”
The MoD’s project leader Brigadier Geoff Nield said in a statement that the MoD was committed “to continuing with the current assessment phase”.
He acknowledged that there have been affordability challenges and that this had forced Metrix, the leader of package 1, to re-examine its proposal.
Ultimately, the St Athan training programme which was to begin in 2012 will now be delayed until 2014 at the earliest, Defence Management reported.

Energy Watch 1

Posted: October 16, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Who hasn’t got a story about rising energy costs?
Nobody, I suspect. And with the recent demise of the energywatch consumer watchdog (merged with Postwatch and the National Consumer Council into a body called Consumer Focus) now might be a time to keep a more watchful eye.
The Welsh Tories today revealed that petrol and diesel costs for the Welsh Ambulance Service have risen by more than £1.5m since 2001, a rise of 67 per cent in seven years.
The trust also reported a 120 per cent rise in gas and electricity prices since 2001, adding hundreds of thousands of pounds to annual running costs.
Other NHS trusts have reported similar rises in fuel and energy bills over the same period, according to figures obtained by Clwyd West AM Darren Millar.
Fuel bills for Cardiff and the Vale NHS trust alone have increased by 186 per cent since 2001 while its energy costs have doubled to £6.8m since 2000.
In the last financial year trusts spent £28.5m on gas and electricity for hospitals and other NHS buildings. In a written response to a question from Jonathan Morgan AM, Health Minister Edwina Hart said: “NHS Trust expenditure on energy, ie gas and electricity, was £28.5m in 2007/08. I expect this figure to increase this year in view of current market conditions.”

Meanwhile, as the dust settles on the bank bail-out, general media opinion is that it is good news for bank shareholders and speculators, and those with savings of £50,000…but what about everyone else?
Tax expert Prem Sikka, a professor from the University of Essex, says: “Soon ministers will be telling us that because of the bail-out public finances are to be squeezed and local and central government departments will cut services and jobs. The burden will disproportionately fall on the less well-off. There is a little chance of a bail-out for the 13.2 million people living in poverty, or for 2.1 million pensioners and 3.9 million children living in poverty, or students starting life in debt. When will the government find money for social reform?”

Privatisation on parade

Posted: October 13, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Much scrutiny of the nationalisation or part-nationalisation of various banks.
If only there had been as much investigation over the years of Labour’s love affair with privatisation.
It started with the air traffic control service and continues in defence.
This month an RAF engineer highlighted the appalling state of accommodation at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan.
“The MoD sent us to a welfare house while our quarters were fumigated…the place they gave us was disgusting, with ripped carpets, filthy cupboards and kitchen doors hanging off their hinges,” said the serviceman’s wife.
Local MP John Smith said: “I am deeply concerned. The problem here appears to be that the property was absolutely filthy and that could not have happened 20 or 30 years ago.
“The entire housing stock of the Ministry of Defence was sold to a Japanese bank some 10 or 12 years ago and what that means is the liaison officer on camp has limited control over the standards of these properties.”
The entire housing stock of the MoD was sold to a Japanese bank? Who knew?
And, yes, this is the same John Smith who is drum major for the massive sell-off which will put the training of all three British armed forces into private hands.