Friday, March 30, 2007

Brown's culpability in pensions scandal?

Some great canvassing this week with a really strong team out in Aberconwy.

The Labour vote seems to be collapsing and it is clear that national issues are swinging the vote towards the Conservatives as much as local issues. For example, the issue about pensions is very strong and it is clear that people are disgusted at the way that Gordon Brown has mishandled this issue.

Indeed, the Times this morning highlighted a recent Freedom of Information release which indicate that he was warned about the effect of his policies but chose to ignore this advice. The documents show that:

– The lower paid would be worse off under the new rules
– Pensioners due to retire would lose out immediately
– Businesses would struggle to adjust to the change
– It would cost pension providers £4 billion a year
– Pension benefits would be cut
– Shares could drop by between 6 per cent and 20 per cent
– The value of existing pension funds could fall immediately by £50 billion
– Local authority schemes would need topping up, leading to higher public spending
– The Department of Trade and Industry would be “gravely concerned” about having to bail out pension schemes driven into insolvency

Given that this venerable organ has been very supportive of Brown during the last few years is probably the most surprising thing about this revelation. certainly, the many retired people in living Aberconwy will be shocked at this revelation which will be yet another nail in the coffin of this party at Cardiff Bay and Westminster

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Amazing timing...

Yet further good news for jobs in the Welsh economy today, although firms are still shedding jobs in the manufacturing sector in those areas that can least afford it.

However, the timing seems a little bit too perfect and I cannot help but feel nothing but cynicism at the way these job announcements are all coming the week before the election campaign starts. It will certainly further erode people's confidence in the way politicians manipulate the news for their own ends.

That may sound naive from an apprentice politician but it is exactly the type of comment I am finding from people on the doorsteps of Aberconwy.

Yet again we see a clear example of the growing politicisation of the civil service in Wales. I doubt if we will ever find out whether officials have been told by the Minister to ensure these announcements are to be made this week but the coincidence is amazing.

Also, it is interesting how the Minister’s city of Swansea is the beneficiary, given that there are many poorer areas such as the Gwent Valleys that could have benefited from such an investment (or is that being too cynical even for me?)

Perhaps Labour should learn from the Conservative Party on this one. The LG announcement in 1996 which promised 6,000 jobs did not help our election chances at all in the following year, mainly because the tide has turned against our party.

The same is now true of Labour - their time is past - and they can get the officials to manipulate job announcements as much as they like. It will not help them one bit in May of this year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why Labour should be thrown out

Have just been e-mailed this link to Youtube from a mate.

If you ever doubted why Labour should lose, and lose heavily at the next election, just watch this.

You may not agree with the way it is being said, but few would disagree with the sentiment.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Plaid spin will disappoint pensioners

I noticed with interest an article in the Daily Post on March 24th headed “Plaid’s pledge to pensioners: low council tax” in which it was reported that this new Nationalist policy “would mean that the average pensioner household was between £50 and £100 better off per year”. As ever in the world of political spin, the truth of the matter is somewhat different.

Plaid’s policy actually states that pensioners would see their council tax pegged to inflation with the difference between the annual rise in the tax - 4.3% on average this year - and inflation being paid back by the Assembly Government. Given that the current inflation measure is 2.8%, this would mean a saving of only £15 a year on the average £1,000 council tax bill. This is very different to what Plaid Cymru claimed.

The pensioners of North Wales deserve the truth in this matter. After the smoke and mirrors of this year’s Budget, they will not take kindly to having another political party try and pull the wool over their eyes, especially with something as important as council tax.

In contrast, the Welsh Conservatives made their position absolutely clear earlier this month, with a manifesto pledge to give a council tax rebate of £100 to every pensioner household in Wales.

Rather than devising a complicated formula that delivers very little in real benefit, our pledge will make a real difference to their household budgets and ease the burden of Labour's stealth tax on some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Cyfarfod diddorol iawn ddoe yn Crest Co-operative yn Llandudno gyda Oliver Heald, sef aelod o tim newydd David Cameron.

Mae wedi bod yn gret gweld arweinyddion yr wrthblaid yn dod i fyny o Lundain i cael trafod sut mae polisiau Prydeinig yn effeithio ar materion lleol a sut fydd aelodau newydd y Cynulliad yn gallu cydweithio i wella's sefyllfa.

Mae David Cameron wedi son yn barod sut y mae am gryfhau rol bwysig y sector gwirfoddol yn lleol, ac mi oedd y bois yn Crest yn dangos yn glir sut y mae cwmni fel yma yn gallu rhoi hyfforddiant perthnasol i bobl ifanc o gefndir difreintiedig drwy ganolbwyntio ar yr amgylchedd fel ei busnes priodol.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Put your money where your mouth is

Put your money where your mouth is and support local post offices"

That is the message from Aberconwy Conservatives. Last week, we demonstrated our commitment to post offices across the region by directly buying stamps for our Assembly election campaign from their local network.

We decided that instead of using the cheaper mass delivery Mailsort option organised outside the region by the Royal Mail and used by other political parties, a decision was made to buy all stamps locally for the campaign. Last week, I visited post offices across the constituency - from Dolwyddelan to Deganwy - buying over 10,000 stamps in the process. I am pictured above with Karen Crocker, sub postmistress at Morfa Post Office in Conwy.

We all have a vital role to play in ensuring that our local post offices remain open. Clearly, it would have been far cheaper and easier to go use the central delivery service provided by the Royal Mail. Instead of just moaning about the issue, we decided to actually do something about supporting our local post offices. Whilst only a small gesture, it shows that we can all do a little bit more in supporting our local post office.

One postmaster gave us an example of a local business which had been approached by a various delivery services and, although the option was slightly cheaper, he felt it was part of his civic duty to buy his stamps from his local post office and support the local community. This is an example that we all should follow where possible.

Whilst it is important that local people continue to back their local post offices, there is more that can be done by the Welsh Assembly Government in ensuring that more government services – the lifeblood of any post office network – are delivered through the network.

The Welsh Conservatives have already suggested that the Assembly Government should be taking proactive and imaginative steps to ensure that post offices in Wales remain at the heart of our communities.

Speaking to postmasters across the constituency, it is clear that the removal of different services by the UK Government has plunged many into crisis. Many people want to have the option of paying their bills through their local post office and yet this choice is being taken away from them, with private and public sector organisations forcing them down the direct debit route. For an increasing number of people, particularly the elderly and most vulnerable in our society, this is completely inappropriate and only adds to the problems of isolation in our communities.

Forcing all pensioners to open bank accounts to receive their pensions was successfully resisted by the Conservatives in Parliament - the Post Office Card Account is now available to those who don't want to use a bank account. This has helped keep sub post offices open at a time when other services are being hived off and made inaccessible to residents who don't drive - many of whom are elderly.

However, more needs to be done and the Welsh Conservatives believe that the Assembly should make it an immediate priority to set up a task force to examine how more local council and Assembly services can be managed and run through the local post office network in Wales, and to examine how more individuals and businesses can be encouraged to pay for their services via this system.

Monday, March 19, 2007

99 not out

Interesting article in the Daily Telegraph today, which suggests that families in Britain are about to be hit with their 100th tax increase from Gordon are the 99 to date.


1. Mortgage interest relief cut 2. Pensions tax (payable tax credits abolished) 3. Health insurance taxed (income tax relief abolished) 4. Health insurance taxed again (IPT) 5. Fuel tax escalator up 6. Vehicle Excise Duty up 7. Tobacco duty escalator up 8. Stamp duty up for properties over £250,000 9. Limit carry back of trading losses to one year 10. Dividends on trading assets 11. Taxation of finance leasing 12. New Windfall Tax on utilities 13. Futures and options 14. VAT: cash accounting scheme

15. Married couple's allowance cut 16. Tax on travel insurance up 17. Tax on casinos and gaming machines up 18. Fuel tax escalator brought forward 19. Tax on company cars up 20. Tax relief for foreign earnings abolished 21. Tax concession for certain professions abolished 22. Capital Gains Tax imposed on certain non-residents 23. Reinvestment relief restricted 24. Corporation Tax payments brought forward and ACT abolished 25. Higher stamp duty rates up 26. Some hydrocarbon duties up 27. Additional diesel duties 28. Landfill Tax up 29. Exceptional increase in tobacco and alcohol duties 30. Amendments to offshore trusts 31. VAT: fuel scale charges

32. NIC earnings limit raised 33. NICs for self-employed up 34. Married Couple's Allowance abolished 35. Mortgage tax relief abolished 36. IR35: Taxation of personal services companies 37. Company car business mileage allowances restricted 38. Tobacco duty escalator brought forward 39. Insurance Premium Tax up 40. Vocational Training Relief abolished 41. Employer NICs extended to all benefits in kind 42. VAT on some banking services up 43. Premiums paid to tenants by landlords taxed 44. Duty on minor oils up 45. Vehicle Excise Duties for lorries up 46. Landfill tax escalator introduced 47. Higher rates of stamp duty up again 48. Capital gains on sale of companies 49. Controlled Foreign Companies: taxation of dividends

50. Tobacco duties up 51. Higher rates of stamp duty up again52. Extra taxation of life assurance companies 53. Rules on Controlled Foreign Companies extended 54. Aggregates levy increased 55. Changes to double taxation relief 56. Rent factoring 57. Capital gains tax: use of trusts and offshore companies 58. VAT: capital asset disposals

59. Controlled foreign companies regime

60. Personal allowances frozen 61. National Insurance threshold frozen 62. NICs for employers up 63. NICs for employees up 64. NICs for self-employed up 65. North Sea taxation up 66. Tax on some alcoholic drinks up 67. New stamp duty regime 68. New rules on loan relationships 69. Taxation of foreign company UK branches

70. VAT on electronically supplied services 71. IR35 applied to domestic workers 72. Betting duty change 73. Tax on red diesel and fuel oil up 74. Controlled Foreign Companies measures on Ireland 75. Vehicle excise duty up 76. VAT: on continuous supplies 77. VAT: on privately operated tolls 78. Treatment of options for the purposes of tax on chargeable gains 79. Landfill tax increased

80. Minimum 19% tax rate on distributed profits 81. Transfer pricing and thin capitalisation 82. Increase in rate of tax on trusts 83. Increase in tax on red diesel fuel 84. Increase in tax on other road fuels (including LPG) 85. VAT: transfers of going concern 86. Insurance premium tax: Changes to GAP insurance 87. Taxation of life companies 88. Foreign earnings deduction for seafarers 89. Construction industry scheme

90. Stamp duty land tax: ending commercial disadvantaged areas relief 91. Increase in North Sea corporation tax 92. Further increase in tax on red diesel 93. Increase in taxation of leasing 94. Company car tax up

95. Further changes to oil valuation for tax purposes 96. Stamp duty land tax: ending relief for initial transfers into unit trusts 97. Removal of income tax exemption for loaned computers 98. North Sea Oil tax increased 99. Air Passenger Duty doubled

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Aberconwy being ignored?

As a candidate, I would obviously say this is one of the most interesting electoral battles in the Assembly elections, although the media does not seem to have taken any notice of the new seat.

For example, unless my geography is completely wrong, the BBC's new election panel does not have one representative from within this constituency (although it has three from Anglesey!)

However, in searching for any information about the media's interest in Aberconwy, I came across this interesting comment on Plaid Cymru's dilemma within the constituency.

Not my problem as we will win the seat without even considering whether this will allow Dafydd Wigley in or not.


After detailed research, I can today revealed that there have been massive increases in the cost of administration and bureaucracy within the NHS in North Wales at a time when local hospitals are being downgraded or shut. I recently made a Freedom of Information request to the three NHS Trusts in North Wales. The documentation received showed that in the period 2003-2006:

- the overall cost of managerial, administrative, facilities and maintenance staff increased by £24 million, representing an increase of 41 per cent in non–medical staff costs over three years
- the cost of administrative staff alone has increased by over £12 million pounds
230 administrators and clerical staff have been employed as compared to 156 new doctors and 268 new nurses
- the cost of the executive board and senior management of all three trusts has risen by £5.2 million pounds, an increase of 53 per cent

This massive growth in non-medical staff costs, especially amongst managerial and administrative staff, is completely unacceptable in the current climate of hospital closures.

It cannot be right that when frontline services are under enormous financial pressure and hospitals are being shut or downgraded that we discover that over £24 million has been spent on increased administration and support costs. The taxpayers of North Wales want to see their money spent on doctors and nurses, not on more penpushers to fill in forms for government bureaucrats.

The Welsh Conservatives is the only party that has consistently asked for the millions spent on bureaucracy within the NHS in North Wales to be redirected to frontline services. Whilst I am fully supportive of having professional management systems within the NHS, this should not be at the expense of vital medical services within local hospitals. Much of the blame must be laid squarely at the door of the Assembly Government, which has made our health system one of the most bureaucratic in Europe.

The consultation process over the future of health services in North Wales was inherently flawed because it did not examine the growing cost of non-medical staff and services. The Welsh Conservatives have made it absolutely clear that we will halt Labour's plans for any downgrading of services at Llandudno Hospital and the closure of other local hospitals in North Wales.

We will also establish a proper dialogue on the future shape of medical services involving clinicians and local people, a dialogue which will have at its core whether money should be used for bureaucracy or frontline services within North Wales

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Council tax hypocrisy

Many council taxpayers across North Wales will be shocked at the hypocrisy demonstrated by the group of Labour AMs to protest at the increase in the police precept, as reported in the Daily Post on Saturday.

They have the gall to complain at the average rise of £2.93 a year when Labour has presided over a doubling of council tax bills since coming to power, a situation which is the direct result of Assembly decisions to pass more burdens to local authorities without any accompanying funding.

Their double standards regarding the police precept is compounded by the deafening silence by the same Assembly Members regarding the abolition of the rural rate relief scheme for small businesses. Thanks directly to Labour Government policy, thousands of small rural firms across North Wales are now facing the prospect of finding hundreds of pounds to pay their rates bills in a few weeks time.

On May 3rd, the voters of North Wales will not forget that it is the Labour Party, at both Westminster and Cardiff Bay, that have taxed individuals and businesses to the hilt during the last eight years and, despite additional billions being spent in Wales, have left us in a situation where local hospitals, schools and post offices are still being closed down across the region.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Llandudno - the second happiest place in the UK

Great story on the BBC website today on Llandudno being the second happiest town in the UK.

This follows Bill Bryson's comment on Llandudno being his "favourite seaside resort".

I am sure it will finally become the happiest place in the UK on May 4th when it elects a Conservative for the seat of Aberconwy :)

CBI Manifesto ignores the train solution

Interesting to see the CBI manifesto call for the Assembly to monitor the effect of any new Welsh legislation, given that I actually highlighted this the previous day in my Western Mail column.

Some of the CBi's issues will not please the Assembly Government, especially their concern over public sector growth in Wales, which both Andrew Davies and Rhodri Morgan remain in denial about.

I also note with interest their transport manifesto, which again focuses on roads. Certainly we need a better mix of transport schemes in Wales, and I am surprised that no one has picked up on Professor Stuart Cole's call for an upgrading of the North-South rail line, which could cut the journey between Bangor and Cardiff to just 3 hrs 15 mins.

The cost - £120 Million - sounds a lot, but not when you put this in the context of the £6 billion which the Assembly Government will spend on economic development and transport during the next four years (and that is excluding the new European Convergence Funds). It would certainly cut the journey from Wrexham to Newport by over an hour, ensuring that the link between North and South wales could be achieved in around 80-90 minutes, and closing the divide between the two parts of our nation

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Plaid Cymru leaflet

Amazing leaflet from Plaid Cymru in Aberconwy which paints the seat as a straight fight between Gareth Jones and Denise Idris Jones, as it was in 2003.

Um, perhaps someone has forgotten to tell them that the boundaries of the seat has changed and that even anti-Tory commentators are agreeing that the Conservatives have an excellent chance of capturing this seat.

Indeed, Plaid Cymru fail to mention the Conservatives at all within their leaflet, but of course, as certain individuals within Plaid Cymru's team on the doorstep have been telling our activists, "we are Conservatives really but with a Welsh tinge"!

Interesting then that, in 2005, they were happy to call themselves the only "genuine socialist party in Wales" which is probably why they would, as their former leader Dafydd Wigley has hinted, be happy to go into coalition with Labour and prop up Rhodri Morgan's discredited Government for another four years.

So contrary to what Gareth Jones' leaflet says, it is clear that Plaid Cymru,as they claim, would not 'unseat Labour's incompetent government in Cardiff' but would support it for another four years.

It will be interesting to note what voters in Aberconwy will have to say on the matter as Plaid Cymru cannot have it both ways!

Conservative conference

Just come back from Cardiff, where we had the Welsh Conservative conference this weekend.

What a totally fantastic and upbeat couple of days, where we set out our stall for the next Assembly elections.

David Cameron spoke eloquently and his presence during the run up to May 3rd will have a real effect in areas such as Aberconwy, where many people tend to read national newspapers such as the Daily Mail, Express, Mirror and Sun, especially as polls keep showing the difference between him and Gordon Brown.