Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Who knows what they will tax next?

Please check out this brilliant campaign video against more taxes on the excellent 18 Doughty Street website.

I think it speaks for all of us!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Canvassing in Conwy

The Canvassing team were out in Conwy on Saturday pushing our key message of saving the NHS. Councillors from Degany and Penrhyn bay came out to support the Conwy team in putting our message across.

I spent over two hours with Councillor Dennis Tew (pictured) walking up and down the streets of Conwy - at this rate, there will be little point in buying a treadmill to get fit and lose weight (and Dennis put me to shame walking up the hills around the town).

Politics, the new diet and exercise regime!!!

There is definitely a growing swell towards the Conservatives within the area and, more importantly, we had the opportunity to discuss our policies on the front door with many people.

It is also worth noting how many people are against not only Labour, but any party which will prop them up in the Assembly after May. "Enough is enough" is the clear message from the people in Conwy and they certainly do not want to see Rhodri Morgan returned as First Minister in May, propped up by either Plaid Cymru or the Lib-Dems.

Conwy branch launched

The new Conwy branch of the Aberconwy Conservatives was launched on Friday evening at the Press Room in Conwy by Theresa Villiers, the shadow Chief Secretary for the Treasury.

Over ten new members were recruited on the evening and this promises to be a stimulating forum for the development of the local Conservative Party, as it has been established and will be run by a group of young local businesspeople such as Paul Roberts of Clunk Click.

Still, politics is not all wine and snacks and I have already told Paul and his team to get their walking boots on to canvass Conwy over the next few weeks!!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Labour's Top Ten "successes"

Rhodri Morgan launches Labour's Top ten successes in the Assembly today.

Let's look at the real top ten of achievements for the Assembly Government:
  1. Abandoned their manifesto pledge to scrap home care charges for disabled people
  2. Turned Wales into the poorest part of the United Kingdom
  3. Failed to meet their hospital waiting times manifesto pledge
  4. Increased average council tax bills by £360 since 1999 and botched the revaluation process
  5. Failed to improve exam standards and tackle truancy
  6. Failed to deliver on a manifesto promise of free breakfasts for all primary school children
  7. Abolished the Welsh Development Agency and Wales Tourist Board, undermining Welsh businesses in an increasingly competitive global market
  8. Left NHS trusts deep in debt
  9. Interfered in the arts and attempted to politicise the Welsh language
  10. Increased spending on spin

This just shows, that despite billions of additional spending, Labour has failed Wales. Imagine what could have been done with a responsible Assembly Government.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Y sector gyhoeddus yn creu swyddi

Newyddion diddorol iawn oddiwrth Alun Cairns ddoe am y nifer o swyddi sydd wedi eu creu yn y sector gyhoeddus yng Nghymru ers 2003.

Er i Rhodri Morgan ddweud fod y sector breifat yng Nghymru sydd wedi creu y rhan fwyaf o'r swyddi o dan ei Lywodraeth, mae'r ystadegau yma yn cefnogi barn llawer i economegydd am yr or-ddibyniaeth ar arian y sector gyhoeddus ac, yn bwysicach, gwendid y sector breifat yng Nghymru.

Mae'n glir i unrhyw Geidwadwr fod rhaid cefnogi'r sector breifat i greu mwy o gyfoeth ac y mae'n amser i Lywodraeth y Cynulliad ddod a mwy o arbennigaeth busnes i fewn i helpu gyda datblygu'r economi, yn arbennig gyda rheoli y cronfa anferth o Ewrop sydd wedi ei clustnodio at ardaloedd tlotaf Cymru.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Guaranteed Welsh will help farmers

Last week, the Welsh Conservatives proposed introducing a new “Guaranteed Welsh” logo to promote Welsh produce and services. The scheme - similar to a system already operating in Ireland - would make it easier for consumers to support Welsh companies and safeguard jobs in Wales. I am proud to say that this new policy came from work I underook for the party to examine the rural economy, and I believe that the introduction of the new logo will be a 'powerful device' in promoting Welsh goods and services.

It would also safeguard Welsh jobs and promote Welsh quality as well as become an instantly recognisable symbol for consumers, who would know that when they buy a product or service featuring the Guaranteed Welsh logo, they are supporting Welsh companies and Welsh workers.

This follows Welsh Conservative plans to ensure new supermarkets enter into binding undertakings about the provision of local goods, pursuit of green policies, and working with local communities, ensuring that there is support for Welsh producers through the promotion of locally sourced food. The party is also calling for the launch of a Welsh Year of Food and Farming, working with schools to develop links with local farms to educate children and improve awareness of how food is produced. This could be a vital step in ensuring that the market for local produce is developed within Wales. Welsh farmers and welsh businesses have a reputation for quality and professionalism. In an increasingly competitive market it is vital we give them every chance to steal a march on their rivals. The Guaranteed Welsh symbol would quickly become a respected, recognisable, valuable marketing tool and a sign of quality.

Having worked in Dublin, I quickly noticed that there was a real effort by the Irish Government to ensure that consumers had the choice of backing local farmers and local businesses through their purchasing power. I believe that the time has come to do the same in Wales and to give consumers the real choice in supporting their local communities.

The Guaranteed Irish scheme has been a resounding success in promoting the best in Irish goods and services and in adopting such a scheme, I am confident that we can repeat that success in Wales by marketing the 'Made in Wales' brand as much as possible.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Gwynt y Mor

With the tourism sector in North Wales facing considerable challenges during the next few years, I applaud the tenacity of those involved in the “Save Our Scenery” campaign. They have rightly highlighted the enormous anxiety expressed by many individuals and businesses in Llandudno over the proposed Gwynt Y Mor offshore windfarm scheme, which will place a minimum of 200 turbines – each as tall as Blackpool Tower - in full view of the sweeping vista of the ‘Naples of North Wales’.

With tourism supporting the economy within North Wales to the tune of nearly £1 billion every year, you would have thought that the Enterprise Department of the Assembly Government - which has responsibility for both energy and tourism - would have fully considered the impact of having windfarms at a location to which hundreds of thousands of people flock every year because of its very beauty – a beauty that will be despoiled by the presence of a new industrial park that would never be given permission offshore at such a location.

Instead, our elected politicians in both Cardiff and London seem to be perfectly content with npower’s premise that the project will have a major impact on reducing the impact climate change, create local jobs and have a minimal effect on the revenues generated from the tourism sector. Much of this has to do with the Assembly's obsession with wind turbines when the opportunity is there to invetsigate other. less intrusive sources of renewable energy, such as biomass, solar and tidal-generated energy.

The economic part of premise is based on the impact assessment commissioned by npower itself for the Gwynt y Mor Offshore wind farm. With a major infrastructure project that is estimated to cost over £1 billion, you would be surprised to find that its entire economic rationale rests predominantly on a survey of 204 businesses across Flintshire, Denbighshire, Conwy and the Wirral, with only 80 businesses from the tourism sector interviewed as part of the study. No detail whatsoever is provided within the assessment impact report of the number of businesses in Llandudno or the surrounding area that have participated in this survey. More worryingly, it more than likely that the conclusions from ‘local’ firms in support of this project are more than likely to be based on the perceptions of businesses in Mold, Ruthin and Hoylake rather than the area in which the windfarm will be based.

The actual views of the businesses interviewed seem to be based on perceptions rather than a considered opinion on the facts at hand. There are also major flaws and omissions within the report which are too numerous to mention here but which do give a positive spin as to the results. For example, only eleven respondents give reasons – such as being new and something to look at - as to why the wind turbines would encourage visitors. In contrast, 40 respondents believe that the turbines will be an eyesore or too noisy. Yet, the report highlights the ‘fact’ that 17 per cent of businesses felt that the development would encourage visitors to the area whilst 20 per cent felt that it would discourage visitors. Some mistake here, surely!

If we also examine the local economic benefits from this development, which promises a high number of jobs from the construction phase of the project, closer observation of shows that the report skilfully avoids any commitment on behalf of the developers to providing any employment locally. Instead we get glib statement on ‘encouraging’ contracters to recruit labour locally or that “it is important that the developer works with local partners and local communities to ensure that opportunities are made available to local people.” Yet on the next page, makes the statement that “the developer won’t be able to provide guarantees regarding where services are eventually procured from.”

The project also promises a total of 100 local jobs in the post-construction phase but again there is no guarantee that this employment will be sourced within Llandudno or the surrounding area and, more importantly, it will not compensate for the downturn in the tourism sector, an issue which even 20 per cent of the non-representative businesses sampled have acknowledged would happen.,

Therefore, in exchange for blighting the landscape for the foreseeable future, it would seem that the region will not be guaranteed any new jobs and the tourism industry in the area will get some viewing posts to look at the turbines and a few boat trips out to the bay. I am sure that will be little comfort to hoteliers and the other businesses which rely on tourists, and will certainly not compensate for the millions of pounds that will more than likely to be lost as a result of this development.

Given this, it is now time to challenge the Assembly Government and the DTI to provide their own detailed socio-economic impact assessment, one that would focus directly on the effect of the Gwynt-y-Mor scheme on Llandudno and its economy. If there is to be a business survey, then it should sample the range of tourism businesses within the area and not rely on the opinions of others who know little about the local tourist industry.

Like the proposed reform of the NHS in North Wales (including the downgrading of services at Llandudno Hospital), the economic rationale for the Gwynt y Mor scheme seems to be based on a flawed document. In both cases, the people of Llandudno have been treated as irrelevant to the whims of politicians, civil servants and big business. That is clearly not acceptable, and the voice of the people of Llandudno must be heard with regard to this development. They deserve no less from their elected politicians.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Out on the streets of Llandudno yesterday to launch our new NHYes campaign.

This follows the launch of our health manifesto for the Assembly elections in May. Clearly, the fight for saving Llandudno Hospital goes on and it is vital that a strong case is made for its retention within the area.

Having a general hospital within an ageing population base such as Llandudno's is vital and the politicians in South Wales have made an easy decision that is based on simple geography rather than the needs of the population.

The other issue that came through clearly is that people are frankly sick of the current Labour Government. As I said to all of them, they will have the chance to judge Blair, Brown and Morgan in May and they must take this chance to send a clear message to the Labour Party.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Conwy loses out on European funding

Conwy is being cheated out of millions of pounds in European funding because of unfair allocation by the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff.

The county has missed out on nearly £12 million from the European Union’s Objective 1 programme. The study shows that if the money had been shared out more fairly by head of population, then Conwy would have received nearly 50 per cent more funding, £39 million instead of the £27 million it actually secured. In contrast, the neighbouring county of Gwynedd received £71 million, £31 million more than it should have been granted by head of population. The upshot is that Conwy is losing out badly, receiving only £241 of European funding per person compared with the £612 per person Gwynedd gets.

In my opinion, this is the great Assembly rip-off. While Wales is Britain’s poor cousin, at this rate Conwy will become the pauper of Wales. The current system of distributing European funding means that Conwy is losing out on vital cash.

So much more could have been done for communities and businesses if only the county had been allocated its rightful share of European grants. The only bigger scandal is that no one in office has been sufficiently awake to the injustice to speak out publicly or do anything to challenge it. The people of Conwy have been denied not only their fair share, but also a voice.

It is vital to start a local campaign now for a fair share of funds. With a further £1.3 billion to be spent during the next seven years, we need to fight for Conwy’s voice to be heard in the Assembly and ensure we get the funding we deserve. If European funds are shared out fairly over the next six years, Conwy will get a massive £160 million of European, public and private funds. Think of the difference that will make to all our lives.

My fear is that instead of helping more locally-based initiatives, funding will inevitably gravitate towards larger projects controlled from Cardiff, which will mean less money for Conwy again. This is completely wrong for Conwy and I will fight for a greater emphasis more on projects run by local organisations for the benefit of local communities.

Having spoken to many local business owners over the last six months, there is so much to be done in the coastal area around Llandudno, and in towns such as Llanrwst and Betws-y-Coed in the Conwy Valley, which have received precious little funds to date.

Given the enormous interest in this issue, I will be convening a meeting of local businesses during the next month to discuss how they would like to see this vast amount of European money spent on developing this region and increasing the prosperity of Conwy.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

More money for hospices

I was heartened by the Welsh Conservatives first policy announcement of the New Year, which made firm commitments to provide more funding for hospices in Wales, and promised to review the funding arrangements for the whole care sector in Wales.

With two excellent hospices in the Conwy area, it is important that the people of Aberconwy know exactly where we stand on this important issue in the run up to May's Assembly elections. I am pleased that a Welsh Conservative Assembly Government would be committed to increasing core funding to hospices and palliative care in Wales by £10 million a year.

Having recently visited both Ty Gobaith and the St David’s Hospice, it is clear that both are playing a vital role in providing experienced care services to support the work of the NHS in North Wales. In particular, the visit to Ty Gobaith with Jonathan Morgan AM (pictured above) and our conversations with chief fundraiser Sarah Kearsley-Wooller helped, I believe, to develop this policy.

Whilst their fundraising efforts are second to none, more needs to be done by the Assembly to ensure that this work continues and it is clear that more funding is needed to ensure that hospices in Wales get the same level of financial support as those in England.

This financial commitment will help to guarantee that hospices in Wales can begin to plan more securely for their futures, and are able to continue to provide the highest standards of respite and palliative care.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Support local businesses

2007 is the year when local communities begin to fight back against the growing centralisation of services by both business and Government.

In the last few years, an increasing number of people have shown their opposition to the power of large supermarkets and the way in which they are systematically destroying the vibrancy of our town centres. Now the time has come for all of us to play our own small part in helping the survival of our local communities and ensuring that we create a vibrant local economy, no matter how large or small our town or village.

Certainly, we can begin by providing our backing to local post offices, many of which are threatened by closure. Another is to make greater effort to buy our food and services locally.

For example, Gareth Vaughan, the President of the Farmers Union of Wales has urged councils in Wales to do more to help shoppers buy local products. This something I have been calling regularly for over the last few years in my columns in the Daily Post and Western Mail, especially in terms of supporting local businesses.

I believe that the people of Aberconwy can show the rest of Wales that local is best and take the lead in supporting the many small local businesses we have within the area.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

2007 has finally arrived and, in just over eighteen weeks, the Assembly elections.

I am looking forward immensely to the challenge of the campaign and in discussing the main issues with the voters of Aberconwy over the next four months.

This is an exciting time for the Conservative Party in Wales and I am confident, with the great team that we have in the constituency, that we can get our message and ensure a historic victory on May 3rd.

Happy New Year!