Independence Index

Your in-depth guide to Welsh independence.

Assembly

The latest news, debates and reports from the Senedd. (Fourth Assembly stories are under 'Archive').

Bridgend

The major local political stories and developments from Bridgend county.

Laws

We gave AMs law-making powers; this is what's being done with them.

Committee Inquiries

Detailed scrutiny of how Wales is being run. (Fourth Assembly inquiries are under 'Archive').

Vice Nation: Sex

How could an independent Wales deal with issues surrounding sex?

Monday, 22 May 2017

Committees Bite Size #4: May 2017



A brief break from the general election today for summaries of some of the reports that have come out of the Senedd's committees over the last couple of weeks.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Election 2017 Manifestos: Labour

(Pic : Hull Daily Mail)

Next in my summarising of the party manifestos is Labour.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Election 2017: ITV Leaders Debate

(Pic : ITV)
Here's a summary of the key points made in the ITV election debate, held last night in Manchester. You can watch it here.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Rhodri Morgan 1939-2017

(Pic : Wales Online)

The former First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, has died at the age of 77.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Election 2017 Manifestos: Plaid Cymru

(Pic : BBC Wales)
The parties have started to release their general election manifestos, and I'm going to summarise them in the order in which they were published. As they pipped Labour by a few hours, I begin with Plaid Cymru.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Election 2017: The Key Issues

(Pic : news.au)
Straight off the back of the local elections, I start my coverage of the UK general election with, as always, a look at what the big issues might be.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Oggy Bloggy Ogwr's Future



At the end of 2016 I said I was going to "retire" from blogging after the local elections.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Bridgend Town & Community Council Election Results 2017

(Click to enlarge)


Last, but not least, it's a look at the town and community council results in Bridgend (pdf), bringing my coverage of the 2017 local elections to a close.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Welsh Local Elections 2017: Results & Analysis


As the results of the town & community council elections in Bridgend still haven't been revealed, I've managed to get this post finished a bit earlier than expected.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Bridgend Council Election Results 2017

Click to enlarge

After the doorstopping, leaflet posting and Facebook rants, voters have elected a new Bridgend County Borough Council - the result is above.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

FMQs: Gaffes, Circuit of Wales & Borrowing



This afternoon saw the final FMQs before the local elections on Thursday and the first since the announcement of the forthcoming UK general election.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Bridgend 2017: Party Policies & Prospects



My coverage of the 2017 local elections draws to a close with the most important post of all: What are the parties/groups promising to do for Bridgend?

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Senedd Watch - April 2017



  • A British Heart Foundation report claimed 1 million Welsh adults were “physically inactive”, with women 40% more likely to be inactive than men. Physical inactivity is categorised as doing less than the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.
  • A controversial £39million timber deal agreed by Natural Resources Wales - which was criticised by the Wales Audit Office for its “irregularity” and lack of transparency - was scrapped when the company involved failed to build a timber mill.
    • River conservation trusts condemned the services of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) after claiming pollution spill-off from farms was “out of control” and the body didn't have the front line staff required to investigate complaints . NRW said it faced “challenges” over pollution but was aiming to “work smarter”.
  • Figures revealed a 16% jump in the number of junior doctors training as GPs, with 84% of training places filled compared to 68% in 2016. It follows a major recruitment campaign. Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), declared the campaign a “success” and said the “figures speak for themselves”.
  • South Wales East AM, Mark Reckless, left UKIP to join the Conservative group on April 6th. He confirmed he'll sit as a Conservative AM but won't be a member of the party. The defection makes the Conservatives the largest opposition group in the National Assembly.
    • Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West) called for him to resign, while UKIP Assembly group leader, Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales), said Mark “betrayed the trust” of party members and has “no mandate”.
    • A Conservative source told BBC Wales that accepting Mark Reckless into their group without being a member was contrary to party rules, meaning AMs had put themselves at risk of de-selection after they voted to suspend their constitution.
  • A report by the Communities Committee into refugees and asylum seekers recommended improved housing complaints procedures, more English lessons and more support for unaccompanied child refugees. There are estimated to be between 6,000-10,000 refugees living in Wales.
  • The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) warned of “democracy deserts” after 92 local council seats went unopposed to single candidates - a similar number to 2012. Gwynedd alone had 21 uncontested seats. The ERS are campaigning for single transferable vote to be introduced in local elections and also criticised the lack of diversity amongst local election candidates.
  • The National Union of Teachers (NUT) called for the Welsh Government to delay the implementation of a new National Curriculum, with up to 40% of full-time teachers unaware of the Donaldson Review's recommendations.
  • Fines totalling more than £600,000 were waived for three local authorities – Newport, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen – after they missed Welsh Government recycling targets for 2015-16. Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) said the Welsh Government had “lost credibility” after failing to follow through with fines for two years in a row.
  • Figures revealed to BBC Wales showed there were 123 women treated for female genital mutilation (FGM) in 2016. Most of the cases were recorded in south Wales, but Welsh Women's Aid said the numbers were “only the tip of the iceberg” with an estimated 2,000 women living with FGM.
  • Youth organisations called for “urgent help” after it was revealed up to 30% faced closure due to lack of funding. The Welsh Government have commissioned a review of youth services, but more than 100 groups have disappeared over the last four years.
  • Qatar Airways announced they would launch flights between Doha and Cardiff Airport in 2018. Passengers will then be able fly to China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and south east Asia via connecting flights, potentially adding an additional 1 million passengers a year flying to and from Cardiff. The First Minister said,it is more important than ever before to sell Wales to the world."
  • The Unite union announced a ballot on industrial action would take place at the Ford engine plant in Bridgend in May, following ongoing concerns about the future of the plant beyond 2021. Ford's management said the ballot was “premature” and talks would continue.
  • The Wales Audit Office said there were “serious shortcomings” in the award of £9.3million in public funds to the company behind the proposed Circuit of Wales development in Blaenau Gwent. Their report criticised the lack of investigation into the background of the companies involved and the Welsh Government “did not explain (to our satisfaction)” why the money was awarded.
  • Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), shortlisted 12 locations for new railway stations from 46 as part of a new transport plan. They will go forward for further scrutiny and include locations in Cardiff, Swansea, Wrexham, Newport, St Clears and Llangefni.
  • The Assembly Commission launched a public consultation on creating a Youth Parliament for Wales. It follows the closure of Funky Dragon in 2014. The Llywydd, Elin Jones (Plaid, Ceredigion), said “We must provide support for them (young people) to discuss issues they care about....we must listen.”

Projects announced in April include: £400,000 to cut smoking rates; an increase in savings people entering residential care can keep to £30,000 (from £25,000); a £24million EU-backed grant scheme to boost rural tourism; a £13million dementia research centre at Cardiff University and a three-year trial of HIV preventative drug, PrEP.



  • UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced a UK General Election will take place on June 8th, citing “political game-playing” by opposition parties in Westminster ahead of Brexit negotiations.
  • On April 19th, The UK House of Commons voted to hold an election - as stipulated in the the Fixed Term Parliaments Act - by 522 votes to 13. All 40 sitting Welsh MPs will defend their seats.
  • The First Minister criticised the decision to call an election during a local election campaign as “odd” and “not in the national interest”, saying the economy and Brexit should be prioritised – later challenging the Prime Minister to a debate. There was more enthusiasm from the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, both of whom welcomed the announcement.
  • UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, refused to rule out including tax increases or scrapping the triple lock on state pensions in the forthcoming Conservative manifesto. The Prime Minister also pledged to maintain overseas aid budgets at 0.7% of GDP.
  • At a rally in Cardiff, UK Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, called for voters to join him on a journey of “hope and excitement”. He criticised cuts to the Welsh budget, and said he would maintain the “triple lock” on state pensions and seek to close tax loopholes for big companies. Labour also announced they would make the national days of the Home Nations bank holidays.
  • UK Lib Dems leader, Tim Farron, ruled out forming a coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour after the election, saying voting for the Lib Dems was the only way to prevent a “Hard Brexit”, saying they would hold a second referendum once any deal with the EU is finalised.
  • Plaid Cymru launched their election campaign on April 25th in Bangor, saying their party offered a “ray of hope” as an emboldened Conservative government was a threat to public services.
    • Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) ruled out standing for the Rhondda seat after “much consideration” and media speculation. She said she was sure the party will put up a strong candidate and winning the seat from Labour's Chris Bryant was “do-able”.
    • Former Plaid Cymru leader and Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was selected to fight Ynys Môn for the party. Polling suggests the seat, currently held by Labour's Albert Owen, is considered a three-way marginal between Plaid, Labour and the Conservatives.
  • The Prime Minister told activists at a campaign event in Bridgend she wanted to open new markets to Welsh businesses post-Brexit with the “best possible trading deal”. The First Minister criticised the visit to his Assembly constituency as “a stunt” and warned voters to “see the Tories for what they are.”
  • Jeremy Corbyn called for people to register to vote saying the young in particular were “being held back”. He said a “fairer Britain” should bend over backwards to help people who are struggling to reach their potential.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Candidate Stuns Social Media With Doorstep Honesty


"Great reception on the doorstep. Hearing good things."

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Bridgend 2017: Wards to Watch


With one week to go until polling day my coverage of the local elections is drawing to a close.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Bridgend 2017: Town & Community Councils

(Pic : Brackla Community Council)


In addition to the county council, Bridgend will also be re-electing our twenty town and community councils (their role is explained at the end of this post).

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bridgend 2017: Key Issues - Llynfi, Garw & Ogmore

(Pic : Bridgend Council)

My final look at the some of local elections issues in Bridgend county goes north of the M4 to take in the Llynfi, Garw and Ogmore valleys. My look at Bridgend and Pencoed is here, and my look at Porthcawl area here.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Bridgend 2017: Key Issues - Porthcawl & Pyle

(Pic : Wales Online)

Following on from my look at county-wide issues and those in the Bridgend and Pencoed area, I move west to consider Porthcawl and the Pyle, Kenfig Hill and Cornelly areas.

Another reminder of who's standing where.

1. Porthcawl Regeneration

Relevant Wards: Newton, Nottage, Porthcawl East Central, Porthcawl West Central, Rest Bay


Firstly, the good news. Progress has been made on Porthcawl harbour, the Jennings Building and water sports facilities. The "sludge pile" is gone, Natural Resources Wales are looking at strengthening coastal flood protection and there are improvements to walking and cycling routes across the seafront in the pipeline (if not already delivered).

But when it comes to the bad news....it's bad. I don't want to repeat what I've said previously but, to date, the prime regeneration sites of Salt Lake and Coney Beach have seen very little activity and that's putting it politely. Yes, you can argue that supermarkets pulling out can't be helped, but clearly either the terms of the agreement between BCBC and the landowners are too prohibitive, or there's simply no way the areas are going to be regenerated as planned.

One of the big questions facing the incoming administration will be: "Should we restart the regeneration plans?"

If they stick with the current plans, it'll need patience and hope that a new development partner can come in. If they decide to change, any new master plan would have to balance the need for new housing with economic opportunities and the views of residents – in the case of the latter, long-standing calls for a swimming pool in the town which have been ignored.

The other big question is how will Porthcawl be connected to the South Wales Metro? I'm going to assume it'll be by some sort of fast bus service, though if money were no object it could be rail.

2. Events & Tourism Development

Relevant Wards: Newton, Nottage, Porthcawl East Central, Porthcawl West Central, Rest Bay


The Porthcawl area is the prime tourist destination in Bridgend county and, naturally, for economic reasons it needs to be made the most of.

BCBC and others are looking to make big investments in watersports facilities, and that's to be expected as Porthcawl has some of the best surfing beaches in south Wales. However, BCBC seeking to cut funding to beach lifeguard services (which have now been taken over by the RNLI) will inevitable raise safety concerns and perhaps harm development of water sports tourism.

Coney Beach funfair is still a big draw in the summer, if a little dated, and its place in regeneration plans is still uncertain (as mentioned earlier). Other than that Porthcawl is perhaps most famous for its Elvis Festival, held in September, which attracts people from around the world. It receives some support from BCBC, but it's a question of how long that will be maintained and whether Porthcawl has the accommodation necessary to allow events to expand.

The obvious thing would be to bring/continue to bring major golf championships to the Royal Porthcawl (which has already hosted the Senior Open and will again in July). If ambitions were set higher – hosting a Ryder Cup or Solheim Cup, for example - it would require serious investment and planning beforehand.

3. Regeneration of the Marlas Estate
(Pic : via Google Earth)


Relevant Wards: Cornelly

Orginally built to house the families of at the Port Talbot steelworks, North Cornelly's Marlas Estate has become a pocket of deprivation and usually ranks alongside the likes of Wildmill, Caerau Park etc. in national statistics.

Similarly to Wildmill, Valleys2Coast had a grand plan to revamp the estate including upgrades to green spaces and gardens, the creation of mixed-ownership housing and a new community hub (pdf). Presumably cuts and a lack of funding have put paid to that.

A bit of good news is that the area has a very effective youth group (KPC Youth), who've managed to reopen the Youthworks centre on the Marlas estate after its parent company, Groundworks, went into administration in 2014. These types of projects – not only in North Cornelly, but others – may be at risk due to a loss of EU funding post-Brexit and the scrapping of Communities First by the Welsh Government.

4. Future of Mynydd Cynffig Primary


Relevant Wards: Pyle

Plans were originally in place to move Mynydd Cynffig Primary in Kenfig Hill to a new build on the Cynffig Comprehensive campus, but in a dramatic turn of events, BCBC performed a u-turn and scrapped the plans just a few weeks ago due to runaway costs.

This poses a number of questions: Will the current split-site arrangement continue? Will BCBC look to building a new school at a more suitable site elsewhere? What does this mean for the council's capital spending plans if there are question marks over the school's future? Will BCBC do anything at all?

It's estimated the planning process had cost something between £250,000 to £300,000 without anything to show for it. You can argue that BCBC wouldn't have spent so much money if they didn't think the school move was worth it, but you can also say that this was lax use of taxpayers money if they had listened to concerns about road safety in the first place.

5. Future of Opencasting & Quarrying
(Pic : freeindex.co.uk)

Relevant Wards: Bryntirion Laleston & Merthyr Mawr, Cefn Cribwr, Cornelly, Pyle

For all the fuss about the failure to restore the Margam/Parc Slip opencast site – which is supposedly underway now - very little's been said about restoring the number of quarries in the area, particularly at South Cornelly and Stormy Down.

The quarries are perhaps more economically viable than opencast coal mines as the materials are essential for construction, with the Bridgend/Vale of Glamorgan area having large deposits of limestone.

OK, they aren't near any major built up areas, but they're potentially incredibly dangerous places.

For example, there's an abandoned quarry just south of Cefn Cribwr near the railway. A few videos have appeared on Youtube over the last few weeks of "urban explorers" going there, including children. Judging by the state of  the buildings, abandoned machinery and what's likely to be a deep and very unpleasant "lake" it's only a matter of time before someone gets injured.

If someone can dig this stuff up, then surely someone can fill the holes back in again. If they're unable to, then should they be allowed to quarry and mine in the first place?

BCBC has its own minerals planning policy which protects land that could be used for limestone quarrying, but ultimately it'll be for the Welsh and UK governments to take the lead in terms of the law and regulations (i.e. minimum distance from homes, restoration funding).