Thursday, 2 August 2012



Separate entrance to this two bed furnished duplex aparment with river views.
Property has security alarm and two allocated parking spaces in secure undercroft.

Situated within quiet Sand Wharf Complex at Jim Driscoll Way.  Within walking distance of:
National Assembly for Wales, WMC, Mermaid Quay, Channel View Leisure Centre, International Sports Village and Cardiff Bay Retail Park.

Ground floor: entrance hallway to double and single bedrooms and bathroom (shower over bath).
First floor: open-plan lounge / diner with water views, open-plan to fully-fitted kitchen
Built in 2003

Telephone: 07876 15 20 99

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Thoughts on North Ward County Council election

Congratulations to Plaid’s Mark Strong on becoming the new county councillor for Aber’s North Ward. Likewise, commiserations go to outgoing member, Carl Williams, who has served the people of North Ward at both county and community council level for many years. Thanks as always go to Ceredigion elections department and the Police for their work in ensuring that we enjoyed a free and fair election. I am grateful to all those who voted for me and also to wonderful friends who helped me with my campaign, especially to Richard Meirion Griffiths, the best campaign manager in the world! Out of approx. 2200 people, only 512 bothered to vote in North Ward - a low turn-out compared to previous local government contests. Whilst more students than usual voted, it’s fair to say that many votes cast were a protest directed at the UK Government and indeed Plaid's last leaflet to be targetted at the student community demanded: 'Do you want to send a message to the Government?' North Ward consists of roughly 1200 students living in both private sector and University accommodation (seafront halls)and the remainder are other residents who consist of a number of sole occupants, families and a large swathe of older retired people - many of whom also live alone. There are a number of small business operators in the ward in the form of shops, hotels, guest houses, etc., but probably fewer than twenty. The ‘doorstep’ and local government issues raised with me by the non student community were about the relocation of the Senior Citizens' Day Centre, the threat to services at Bronglais and budget cuts affecting social care more generally. At the time of writing, it’s too early to know whether or not the new Council Cabinet will be able to reverse the decision on the Day Centre or if it will be their intention to do so? Students are concerned about the standard of private rented sector accommodation, much of which is over-priced, ill-equipped and poorly maintained. There’s a problem with absentee landlords – those who live more than an hour’s drive from Aber who don’t employ a property manager. Local residents living nearby are justifiably frustrated by this and the amount of rubbish and detritus that’s often left to collect in front gardens making parts of the ward look really unattractive. Apparently, regular meetings do take place between landlords and Councillors, but more needs to be done. Perhaps the new Landlord Accreditation Scheme will help to address some of these issues? Finally, I would also question the wisdom of bringing 23 houses at Pentre Jane Morgan into the ward. There is a local opinion that the student village ‘geographically’ properly belongs to Waun Fawr!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Mid Wales goes to Cardiff - the truth about the health protest

I wanted to blog about the amazing protest which took place last month outside the Senedd about the threat to health services in Mid Wales and Bronglais Hospital in particular. I can think of no better way of telling the story than cutting and pasting Jack Evershed's speech from that day. Jack is one of the founder members of the aBer - Achub Bronglais Emergency Rescue - Group.

What follows is an extract from the aBer Group's own recently launched website. If you want to know the truth about what's really happeing in relation to health services in Mid Wales, make it one of your favourites:

On Wednesday 29 February, over 700 campaigners from Mid Wales descended on Cardiff to voice their concerns about the future of Bronglais Hospital.

Jack Evershed, of the aBer group, gave the following speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for making the tremendous effort to get here today. I know there are people representing a huge number of local communities across Mid Wales. I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to many of you in our meetings across our area. Today is the result of our dismay at the inappropriate planning of health services for us and anger at our complete disenfranchisement in that process. For example very many people canvassed for the original and comprehensive Front of House development at Bronglais rather than the current impoverished and inadequate porch being built. We are customers of three different Health Boards but only one District General Hospital- Bronglais. It appears to be beyond the imagination or capability of Hywel Dda Health Board to run Bronglais in a way that caters to our needs. Bronglais needs to be managed in a dynamic and innovative way, not by adopting easy or convenient standardised models. So we are here today with a simple message to the people working within this building who are in a position to facilitate such management.

We, the people of Mid Wales have a moral, ethical and legal right to the same level of health care as anyone else in Wales. One look at the maps displayed here today will show that if the degradation of services at Bronglais is not reversed then the people within these walls cannot meet their duty to prevent the violation of that right.

We demand that our Minister protect Bronglais from its continuing death by a thousand cuts and urgently finds a way to provide appropriate management for Bronglais that is responsive to, and responsible for, its entire catchment population.

It goes without saying that Jack's speech really hits the nail on the head about how we who live in this neck of the woods all feel about the importance of Bronglais to our communities. We really cannot travel for 90 minutes to receive emergency abdominal surgery. That is not a reasonable request in anyone's book and most of us wouldn't actually make it anyway!

This is a debate about ensuring basic human rights and that people who choose to live in rural areas are not treated as second class citizens.
The Welsh Labour Government needs to understand that just like the people who live in Mid Wales, this is a debate which is not going to go away!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Aberystwyth Promenade must remain our jewel in the crown...........

I recently read a Ceredigion County Council report on the Aberystwyth Regeneration Area which is to be presented to Council Cabinet on the 21st February. This gives authority for Council officers to proceed with identified regeneration projects – one of which is the long-overdue redevelopment of the Promenade’s former Bay Hotel (Grade II listed) and the land to the rear which is currently the Bath Street Car Park.

It goes without saying that Aber’s Victorian Promenade should be the ‘shop window’ of our town and I’m sure everyone will welcome that steps are now being taken which have the potential to reinvigorate the area and stimulate the local economy. It’s good news that the report highlights the need for a high quality mixed use scheme which responds to the unique historic character of the site, as well as supporting the tourism economy of the town; in other words, something which properly fits in with Aber.

Any future scheme will be tied in with the Welsh Government’s Regeneration Area funding of £10.2 million and prospective developers will also have to adhere to the principles set out in the Aberystwyth Masterplan of 2007. Mention of the Masterplan will no doubt remind regular readers of how two years ago the ambiguity surrounding regeneration proposals for Chalybeate Street caused a great deal of angst and uncertainty. Similarly in 2010, there were also concerns that the Promenade’s new motorcycle corral (located opposite the Bandstand), was passed by Cabinet with inadequate consultation. Whatever type of development is eventually chosen for the site of the ‘Bay Hotel’, I sincerely hope that the local authority will learn from the mistakes of the past and will ensure that as well as the required stakeholder consultation process, we see clarity and accountability from our elected representatives on these matters.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

When is a consultation not a consultation: when it’s an engagement and listening conversation with options!

Last Thursday morning at County Hall, Aberaeron, representatives of the Hywel Dda Health Board met with Ceredigion County Council to make a presentation regarding their latest controversial document:Your Health Your Future. Councillors had asked for the Health Board to attend this meeting some time ago and the Chamber was full - (a high turnout of councillors and also members of the public who were sitting in the public gallery).

The presentation comprised of showing the DVD which accompanies the Health Board’s document, (a copy of which has now been sent to every household within the Hywel Dda area). This figure has not been confirmed, but it is said that this DVD has cost around £ 120,000 to produce. I listened with interest when I heard the Hywel Dda Chief Executive, Trevor Purt, state that the purpose of going out to the public with this information was not to consult, but rather to ‘engage, listen and have a conversation’. He went on to say that the set of loosely formed ideas being put forward in the presentation were just that. They were in no way proposals or plans; simply ‘options’ for people to consider. Given the alleged cost of the DVD, I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions on that particular point. However, at some stage over the next few weeks, the Hywel Dda Health Board actually hopes to put together a consultation document which will apparently have clearer, stronger proposals in it.

The Hywel Dda representative who introduced the presentation listed the problems which we are faced with in this area and acknowledged the geographical service area of Bronglais Hospital to North Cerdigion and Powys, but then unfortunately, promptly forgot to mention South Gwynedd. It is estimated that 35%-40% of patients who use Bronglais reside in these areas outside of Ceredigion, although they will not have received a copy of the Engagement with Options DVD.

The challenges we are faced with were once again duly listed:
• an ageing population
• rurality equals too few patients plus extra challenges
• 40 % of patients are in hospital who do not need to be there (allegedly)
This was polished off with the Health Board’s mantra: ‘Standing still is not an option……….’
(Something we all accept, but which doesn’t mean that we should adopt plans which are inadequately researched and patently unsafe).

Community and Primary Health Care

The Health Board representative went on to say the way forward needs to be placing an emphasis on self-management of chronic health conditions and Trevor Purt said that they would be investing more money in primary and community health services which would enable people to stay at home for longer, although at this stage, no figures were mentioned.
This of course would require communities being able to access nursing care on a 24/7 basis. This currently does not happen in Ceredigion. The introduction also mentioned that Tony Chambers who is in charge of the Board’s Operational Planning would be going on to talk in detail about community services - I was really looking forward to this part, particularly as I thought we might get some meat on the bones on the funding detail and how this idea would be rolled out in parallel with a reduction in hospital based services. However, when we eventually got to the slide about primary and community care, disappointly, he made reference to this being a ‘work in progress’ and then moved swiftly on.
The chair of the Social Services Committee for Ceredigion County Council stated that Hywel Dda were currently not really offering community services on a health basis at all and that in his experience, continuing health care packages were not being offered. He urged the Health Board:
‘Get your act together now, and then we’ll support you about changes………’
At this juncture, Trevor Purt acknowledged that ‘things are not good……’
The councillor went on to say:

‘There is currently a cutting back of continuing health care packages, so how can there possibly be 24/7 care?’

The unique geographical location of Bronglais Hospital

Mr. Chambers told us that Hywel Dda was probably one of the largest rural health providers in the UK - (a fact you never would have guessed I’m sure!), but full marks, he did actually remember to mention South Gwynedd, even though later on when questions were asked, the HDdHB said that they were not commissioned to develop services for Mid Wales, even though this is the geographical area which Bronglais Hospital serves. Apparently discussions are going on with both Betsi Cadwaladr University HB and Powys LHB, but no detailed information was given about this or when the results of these discussions might be revealed.

When the Chief Executive was asked by one councillor;
‘Is there an argument to say that Mid Wales deserves it own health area or are we just hostages to fortune to the other health boards down the road?’,
Mr. Purt responded:
‘If Bronglais wasn’t part of Hywel Dda, it would be under even greater threat..’

The Golden Hour and transporting patients

No mentioned was made by any Hywel Dda Health Board personnel of the ‘Golden Hour’, however, they acknowledged how important it will be to have an excellent ambulance transfer service for emergency and trauma cases. No mention was made of the fact that both Glangwili and Singleton Hospitals are respectively 80 mins and 100 minutes driving time from Bronglais Hospital and that this of course falls well outside of the ‘Golden Hour’. Trevor Purt said that the HDdHB was looking to fund air ambulance transportation on a 24/7 basis. He may be interested to know that following presentations made to the Community Health Council in Aberystwyth last month, I can tell him that the Air Ambulance costs approx. £1,400 per mission. This money is raised through charitable donations although I understand that the actual training of paramedics is funded by the Welsh Government. As he was keen to tell us that he is a qualified pilot, Mr. Purt will know that the Air Ambulance can only be operational in appropriate weather conditions and does not generally fly at all at night – so much for 24/7! Presumably, the extra funding that Mr. Purt talks of which is needed to grow this service will be coming from the Welsh Government, but he didn’t offer any detail on this at all.

Hywel Dda HB and attendance at public meetings.

Apparently, the Health Board have not attended / failed to turn up to public meetings to which they have been invited because oftentimes, they experience hostility and abuse and it is logistically difficult to attend every meeting. One councillor quite rightly pointed out that not turning up to meetings (as was the case in Tregaron), after asking for community engagement and co-operation, was simply feeding a vicious cycle and equated to a PR disaster. If Hywel Dda has said that local support is crucial, then surely, so is turning up to meetings! Another councillor criticised the current programme of engagement meetings for Ceredigion which have thus far been held at times which are not convenient for working people to attend. There hasn’t been a mid-county meeting and the HDdHB have chosen not to follow any of the suggestions put forward by Ceredigion Community Health Council in terms of community engagement.


• Whilst I’m sure that the Health Board will have been pleased with their performance at this extraordinarily long meeting (4 hours plus), I’m afraid that they failed to come up with any proposals which maximize healthcare opportunities at Bronglais as a central hub hospital for Mid Wales. Of course, it is not their intention to do so or even listen to suggestions that this is worth exploration.
• Whilst they say they are conscious of Bronglais’ isolation, they do not acknowledge the importance of the ‘Golden Hour’, or the distances Mid Wales patients will be forced to travel in unsafe circumstances.
• HDdHB obviously do not want to discuss primary and community healthcare in any detail
• They are still not able to be clear in explaining the difference between ‘consultant led’ and ‘consultant-delivered’. Perhaps the truth is that they don’t even know themselves.
• Finally, these plans (….er sorry, ‘options’) have not been costed or logistically worked through.

I have lost all confidence in Hywel Dda Health Board’s intention of carrying out any listening activity at all. I do not believe that they are fit for purpose. Only the Minister can alter this situation if she has the courage to do so. If she fails to listen to the will of the people of Mid Wales at this most critical time, she will have missed a massive opportunity.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Wales can't afford to tax tourism

Following Silk Commission submissions last week, for those who are thinking of introducing a tourism tax, they might like to know that a recent proposal from a local authority to introduce a tourism ‘bed tax’ on overnight visitors in the city of York has been written off by the city’s tourism operators as discriminatory and damaging.
Apart from the damaging effect a tourism tax would have in these straitened times, in practical terms, it would be extremely difficult to enforce and collect. Those of us concerned with tourism will remember that the idea of a bed tax was suggested in the Lyons Report on Local Authority funding in 2006, but was instantly dismissed by the then Labour government. It is extremely surprising to discover that this idea has been resurrected and put before the Silk Commission as part of submissions received on ways to levy new taxes in Wales.
Currently, the British hotel industry already has to carry a 20 per cent VAT burden which overall, results in UK tourism being uncompetitive.
The fact is that all but three other EU member states have a reduced rate of VAT on hotel accommodation and many have also accorded a reduced rate on attractions and restaurant meals. Most hoteliers would agree that the current high rate of VAT makes the UK uncompetitive and that a ‘bed’ or tourism tax would only exacerbate that position.
At a time when we need to be supporting many SMEs, the fact is that coupled with extortionately high business rates already experienced by many operators, a tourism tax would encourage many small operators to close their doors altogether, particularly in Wales where we depend on the industry more than any of the other UK nations.
Deloitte’s Economic Case for the Visitor Economy (Final Report) illustrates the importance of tourism to Wales compared to other parts of the UK:
Total contribution to the Visitor economy in Wales in 2009 = £ 6.2 bn of GDP (13.3 % of the total economy)
This compares to 8.6 % in England and 10.4 % in Scotland which has a much stronger marketing brand than Wales.
The tourism industry in Wales employs 13% of the workforce compared to 8.3% in England and a quarter of all VAT registered businesses in Wales are in the visitor economy.
Tourism is essentially a labour intensive industry and creates jobs as well as supporting local and rural economies.
The fact is that in Wales, as an economic driver, as an employer and in its role as the guardian of both community facilities and opportunities, the tourism industry is of paramount importance and is irreplaceable. We can’t afford to tax it.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Symud Ymlaen - Leaving the Welsh Conservatives

After long and careful consideration, last September, I took the decision to resign from the Welsh Conservatives. For those who are interested, (and a number of people have asked me), here’s why:
Politically speaking, it would be fair to say that I shall always espouse the politics of the centre- right, however, it won’t have been any secret to those who know me well that within the Welsh Conservatives, I was very concerned about the way the party is run and more particularly, about how the membership is treated. There were a number of members who shared my views and many friends and former colleagues urged me to either 'bite the bullet', or to try to change things from within. However, I discovered that sadly, there is very little appetite from within the party to bring about positive change to this effect, and last September I made up my mind. To rather crudely mix my metaphors, I arrived at this conclusion: if a horse doesn’t want to be led to water, then there ain’t no point flogging it until it’s dead!

Whilst it cannot be denied that Welsh Conservatives have done well in recent elections, it’s my belief that the way the party is run may not augur well for sustaining these good results and more importantly, for recruiting new members and appealing to people from all walks of life. No one individual is to blame for these problems, but as was evidenced by the party’s poor communication problems over the recent cancellation of their Welsh Conference, there really does need to be radical root and branch reform.

I think that most people would agree that the progress of any organisation is dependent on its reputation. In my opinion, in order to improve this, the Welsh Conservatives need to get their marketing right and to properly serve their members, (the people who are after all, the ‘shareholders’ in the company).
• Members need to see evidence that the professional party in Wales (the salaried arm of the party charged with administration) is properly performance managed.
• There needs to be better communication from the Party’s Management Board to the Party members.
It is a pity that it always seems to have been a struggle to find volunteers who are willing to stand for election to the Management Board, to such an extent that within the Party over the last few years, members have seen the same old suspects from the voluntary party hierarchy being ‘recycled’ back onto the Board. This is not good for party democracy or for introducing new ideas.
• There needs to be better communication with Party members overall.
Members want and need to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion and that their opinions are valued – this means making regular contact and not just asking them to deliver leaflets at election time!

Over the past twelve years that I was a member, I made many friends within the party and I was privileged to have served in the Assembly with a group who were for the most part talented and hard-working. I am very grateful to have experienced all of this and trust that the many friendships will remain, but I feel sure that those who know me well will understand that in order to remain true to myself, I now need to plough my own furrow.