Thursday, 31 July 2014

Death and taxes

Taxation dominates silly season speculation as the parties think out loud about what might or might not be in their respective manifestos. As one would anticipate, David Cameron dangles the prospect of cuts but still assumes the mantle of responsible fiscal leadership. It should be noted that on this occasion he was not stood in a migrant benefit claimant's flat while speaking.

Meanwhile Labour is piling heaps of earth on what seemed to be a suggestion by Andy Burnham that a death tax (estate levy to fund care packages) is back on the books. Apparently it is acceptable to think the unthinkable as long as such thoughts are then kept to one's self.

No such qualms exist at the Telegraph who carry the advice: "Labour has accused the Conservatives of being obsessed with cutting taxes for the rich... Rather than running scared of such accusations, the Conservatives might do well to embrace them - for it will remind the public that they are the party which believes that lowering the tax burden... is the best way to make everyone more prosperous."

Monday, 28 July 2014

Facts at a premium

Plaid's summer offensive continues with accusations that the Welsh Government of planning to inflict a further £5m cuts in education grants this year. These will be imposed on top of previously announced reductions.


According to the Western Mail, Simon Thomas said he understood local authorities were being told to prepare for substantial extra cuts which would impact particularly on learners from poorer backgrounds.
Plaid said the Welsh Government plans cuts totalling £5m to three specific all-Wales funding streams: the School Effectiveness Grant, the minority and Ethnic Achievement Grant and the 14–19 Network Grant.

If true, the move puts into doubt government promises to increase schools spending by 1% in real terms. A spokesperson however insisted that arrangements over funding and how additional spending is to be financed are fully transparent.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sweating the small stuff

Labour's continuing efforts to stamp the seeds of separatism in Wales back into the ground reached a mildly hysterical level with accusations that Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood was making an error of judgement by speaking at a left-wing Scottish independence group's event.

Apparently we should all be horrified that the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), which Ms Wood graced with her presence, is no ally of the the Scottish National Party on matters such as finance and the monarchy.
Notwithstanding the vapid blathering from Labour ranks, the only ill-considered aspect is that the RIC occupies a small section of Scottish fringe politics. Such indulgences should be avoided in future by the Plaid leader if post-referendum alliances are to be forged. As has been the case in the past, she should have been better advised.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Hymn sheets and health

Plaid Cymru AMs obviously share each other's deep-seated concerns about stress related illness within the NHS. So great is their angst that individual press releases with selective obligatory FoI info carry almost identical phrases.


Bethan Jenkins, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West, said: "I'm particularly concerned at the level of stress-related illness in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, where significant failings in patient care have been identified over the past few years. 
South Wales Evening Post

Elin Jones, Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister said: "I'm particularly concerned at the level of stress-related illness in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, where significant failings in patient care have been identified over the last few years."
ITV Wales 
Oops. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Snooping by stich-up

Expectations that the Sunday heavies would return to the subject of state surveillance have been dashed by reshuffle rumours and tentative enquiries into Westminster's lurid past.

The Independent was particularly adamant earlier in the week that Cameron wanted to use the emergency legislation to fast-track other forms of electronic monitoring. Despite assurances, it is yet unclear whether the Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill can be used as a paving measure.

We could speculate whether the quiet agreement by Labour and Lib Dems to support a quick granting of powers will enable back-door interception measures whilst giving the appearance of curbing local authority snooping.

But why bother when Mike Harris does it so much better.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Offshore and outed

The Guardian is getting obvious enjoyment in drip feeding identities of thousands of wealthy offshore clients who bank with a major Channel Isles private concern.  

The leaked details include political donors who have paid more than £8m since 2001. The paper also promises to identify "some of the most prominent people in British life".

Just when you thought things couldn't get worse in Westminster.

Update: Indy reports on aggressive behaviour (tax-wise) by sporting celebs.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Back-flip with spin

There is a certain gymnastic quality about the manner in which Martin Shipton went from  recounting the merits of Alun Davies to mapping his downfall. His graceful twist in mid air will have gained grudging professional admiration from the former public affairs specialist, and now former minister.

Sneering aside, Shipton nails the point that Davies is the architect of his downfall. The boundaries he crossed in attempting to elicit dirt on opponents were considerably less blurred than those over lobbying. His behaviour is inexplicable for someone patently already in the media's cross-hairs.

The ill-tempered exchanges in the Senedd reflected the level of Labour's despair. The loss of a ministerial scalp is bad enough. The manner in which it came about will inevitability add 'sleaze' to the indictments hurled by the opposition at Carwyn's tired looking administration. Recess cannot come soon enough.

Update: What's in a statement? As highlighted by Wales Eye, ITV Wales appears a lot less discerning over who gets air time on their own terms.

Ombudsman loads both barrels

Local authorities and other public bodies with expectations of an objective stance by the man soon to be Ombudsman will be in for a disappointment. Nick Bennett is alarmingly dismissive of local government performance and says councils are "letting down the people of Wales.

He is quoted by the Beeb as stating, "Too often services are poor and patchy. Perhaps you can have excellence and mediocrity or even failure within the same local government structure."

There are those who will question whether the individual charged with the role of impartially overseeing the administrative process should be making such prejudicial comments in advance of taking up his post.

There are others who will doubtlessly remark that his description of variable service very aptly portrays the Welsh housing association movement for which he is currently responsible.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Steering from crisis to car crash

Judgement is a facility which leaders seldom exercise without critical comment off-stage. What distinguishes the decision by Carwyn Jones to save his environment minister is how the move has received little approbation from within his own ranks

Internal critics keen to highlight the inconsistency point to how the first minister's loyal lieutenant Leighton Andrews was considered expendable over a mere spot of gesture politics. Yet Alun Davies, who breached the ministerial code by intervening with his own agency receives a mild ticking off.

This soft treatment not only reflects poorly on the first minister's judgement. The added consequence is that opposition parties are rallying for a no-confidence vote in Davies. The outcome will have no constitutional standing but it will be messy and mightily embarrassing.

Or as a senior party figure observed yesterday evening, "Labour is headed for a needless car crash in the Senedd and it's Carwyn that's driving".