Monday, 22 September 2014

Does Jobs Growth work for Wales?

A report into the Welsh Government's flagship Jobs Growth Wales programme has
revealed some possible issues that suggest it might not be as great as claimed.
(Pic : Bridgend Council Business Zone)
Back in July, I was singing the praises of the previous minister in charge of the flagship Jobs Growth Wales (JGW) scheme, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), as the figures showed the scheme has been an unqualified success.

It appears, however, that all that glitters isn't gold after all.

Launched in April 2012, Jobs Growth Wales – part backed by the European Social Fund – was set up to provide up to 16,000 unemployed people aged 16-24 with either a 25-40 hour a week job paid at minimum wage or above, or a £6,000 bursary to start a business. With cripplingly-high levels of youth unemployment in Wales since the Great Recession, the goal was to ensure young people moved off the dole into employment or self-employment.

Last week, Ipsos Mori published an interim report into Jobs Growth Wales (pdf - summary report) which was – it's fair to point out - commissioned by the Welsh Government themselves.

The Key Findings

In terms of meeting targets, JGW really has been an unqualified success.
(Pic : G2G Communities)

In terms of filling vacancies, JGW has – as the Welsh Government are keen to point out – been a success, finding 4,000 placements in its first year and by the end of 2013 that had reached just over 8,100. The latest figures are closer to 12,000. Although the number of graduate placements has stuttered, JGW is due to meet or exceed its targets.

The report says that JGW has made a positive impact on business recruitment decisions. However, two thirds of JGW posts would've been created anyway and the scheme has encouraged businesses to take on younger staff instead of more experienced temps. In a positive, the application process is said to be "straightforward and easy" for both applicants and potential employers.

73% of participants were offered a job at the end of their placements, and a majority accept those jobs. It's estimated that 27% of JGW applicants would not have found a job without the scheme's help. In addition, the scheme boosted applicants earnings by a collective £13.5million per year, and the wider economic impact could be up to £24.6million.

But – and it's a big but, I can't lie – the report says the economic impact figures might be overestimated because applicants were being paid minimum wage, as well as the fact JGW applicants were taking up jobs that would've been created anyway. This reduces the economic impact estimates to between £10-17million.

The policy itself – which was a Welsh Labour manifesto commitment in 2011 - is said to be justified because long-term unemployment can seriously damage young people's prospects later in life, like under-employment, difficulty in getting a job in the first place and permanent economic inactivity.

The review flags up issues about data collection and monitoring (which appears to be a serious problem across many Welsh Government schemes). Data was (inexplicably) kept by the individual agents managing the scheme then mashed together. This has since been resolved and data is entered straight into a central system, but follow-up inquiries with participants to see how they're doing have been a struggle.

Then there's arguably the biggest bump in the road – the job "quality". Many job placements are said to be in low-skill, low-wage positions. Most participants received some sort of training on-the-job, but employers say many of the applicants had lower literacy and numeracy skills. The average wage on a placement is just £5.80 per hour – 67% of the average wage for an 18-24 year old in Wales, which usually rises to 76% in those jobs filled by applicants leaving JGW.

The report's most damning criticism was that 73% of JGW applicants would've found jobs even if the scheme didn't exist. However, the scheme pays off due to the increase in confidence and length of time in employment applicants receive as part of the scheme.

Does it work?

All programmes like this will hit "bumps", but perhaps things aren't as serious as claimed.
Concerns about under-employment and low pay will need to be addressed, however.
(Pic : BBC Wales)
When the report was released, the harshest criticism came from the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Their economic spokesperson, Eluned Parrot AM (Lib Dem, South Wales Central), said in a party statement :

"By wasting precious money on people that don't need the support, they are failing the thousands of young people in Wales that desperately do. This scheme has done absolutely nothing to help the most disengaged and disadvantaged young people in Wales, and has actually entrenched low wage levels in our young workforce."

The issue was also raised a few times in the Assembly last week, with the responsibility for the scheme passing to new Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West).

16.09.14 – Business Statement & Announcement
Eluned Parrott AM : Minister, this morning the Welsh Government published its long-anticipated evaluation report into Jobs Growth cost more than £100,000 to conduct this evaluation and it has taken nearly a year to agree the findings. So, can you tell me why the first major evaluation of a scheme that you have claimed was the best in the world, that is your flagship, and that is the First Minister’s default answer to everything, did not merit a statement in this Chamber today? Can you assure me that the Welsh Government will bring forward a statement to allow Members to scrutinise the Government of your major policy achievements? Otherwise, cynics might be tempted to suggest might not want to talk about it.

Jane Hutt AM (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan) : This summer, I have taken the opportunity to meet not only young people who have benefitted (sic) from Jobs Growth Wales, but also their employers.... In terms of the opportunities that you have—which you take advantage of, of course, Eluned Parrott—to scrutinise and ask questions of the Ministers, that is important. However, let us recognise what Jobs Growth Wales has achieved for those young people and how much the employers....value them. I would say also, as Minister for Finance, that it is vital that we have a clear evaluation of our programmes, and I am very confident that the evaluation has endorsed....what we are achieving in Jobs Growth Wales.
Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) : A report commissioned by the Government published this week includes an evaluation showing too much focus on those who are already employable. The report shows that 73% of....posts could have been created without Jobs Growth Wales. Do you....accept that we should shift the focus to....young people who are further away from the jobs market....rather than subsidising jobs that already exist?

Julie James AM : ....this is a very successful programme has created over 15,000 jobs for young people....We know these other statistics as well: employers expand their workforce more rapidly than they otherwise would do....young people have stayed in work much longer....the programme is well ahead of schedule; more than a quarter of those finding work....would not have got a job at all without the programme; and, of the ones who might have got a job anyway, they got that job....eight weeks earlier..... However, I accept the Member’s point about the difficulties for young people who are not job ready and, as a result of that, we are....going to be channelling money into looking at people from Communities First that we can assist those most in need of getting ready for the job market to do just that.

It's quite clear that regardless of the weaknesses identified in the report, the Welsh Government are convinced JGW works.

I'm inclined to agree with them. Weighing everything up, I still believe this qualifies as one of those rarest of rare things : a Welsh Government success story. It's not perfect by any means, especially if it entrenches low pay and under-employment. Yet it still compares favorably to other Welsh Government-EU job schemes like the COASTAL project (more from Y Cneifiwr).

Plaid Cymru and others have also flagged up that funding for apprenticeships is due to be cut by up to £7million, which could reduce the number of places by half. The Welsh Government need to be careful that the progress they've made here, in attempting to reduce youth unemployment and low skill levels, doesn't blow up in their faces due to their tendancy to micromanage and tinker.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

School transport back on the agenda & more

Right, we can get back to work now. *clap* *clap*  Fun's over. God Save The Queen etc....until next time.

Bridgend Council (BCBC) held their monthly cabinet and full council meetings earlier this week, so it's worth tracking what was discussed and follow up on a few things I've covered previously. All the necessary information is contained here (pdf – 29MB).

School transport plans due for (re)consultation

Bridgend Council are set to put out new proposals for changes to home-school
transport for consultation, with a major concession to voluntary-aided schools.
(Pic : Wales Online)

The long rumbling row over home-school transport is due to kick off again. Last year, BCBC proposed moving the boundary for free home-school transport from the current 1.5miles for primaries and 2 miles for secondaries to 2 miles for primaries and 3 miles for secondaries - which is the legal minimum (Who gets hit by Bridgend's school bus proposals?).

Because the Welsh Government were discussing new guidelines on home-school transport, BCBC decided to postpone the plans for a year and return to it later.

Since then, detailed research has been undertaken by BCBC to determine the impact of the new policy. As a result of the research (the full details are available in the documents linked above), three proposed changes to home-school transport policy have been put forward for a 12-week consultation, which will probably be launched in the next few months.

  • Proposal 1 – The boundary for free home-school transport for all state, Welsh-medium and voluntary-aided schools be move to the statutory minimum (2 miles & 3 miles) from September 2016. All schools will be treated equally this time around. So transport to Welsh-medium and voluntary aided schools will be guaranteed for pupils who live beyond the boundary, even if their chosen school isn't the closest available school.
  • Proposal 2 – Charge the full cost of a bus pass for pupils who aren't eligible for free home-school transport. The current charge is £270, but the real cost – which is hinted would be charged – is a hefty £756 for primary pupils and £647 for secondary pupils.
  • Proposal 3 – Stop providing free transport for pupils aged 16+ who go to school or college. A hardship fund of £30,000 will be set up to provide subsidised transport places for pupils who are eligible, plus Education Maintenance Allowance (£30 per week) was set up with transport costs partly in mind.

As you can see, the big difference from the last set of proposals is that all schools will now be treated equally – which was a big concern for faith schools in particular. The policy change, if approved, will save BCBC just over £2million across 2016-17 and 2017-18, mostly as a result of scrapping free transport for over-16s.

The figures come into sharper focus following reports this week that suggest Bridgend Council will need to find up to an extra £14million in savings on top of the current £36million until 2018.

Term-time holiday fine proposals hit a bump

Proposals to fine parents in Bridgend who take their children on holiday during
term-time have gone down well with headteachers, but not so well with parents.
(Pic :

Following the Education Penalty Notice Regulations 2013 (pdf), introduced by the Welsh Government to some controversy, BCBC launched a public consultation between June and August this year on their possible introduction in Bridgend County. This would include the option of fining parents who take their children on holiday during term time.

Parents might well have legitimate reasons for doing so : it's the only time they can get off due to working patterns, it's the only way they can afford a holiday, it might even have a personal significance. However, absence from school affects performance, and with schools under more pressure than ever to keep attendance rates up to meet banding requirements, all forms of "unnecessary" absence are being clamped down upon.

Here are some of the key findings from the consultation responses :
  • 81% opposed a consistent county-wide approach to refusing term-time holidays. However, 93% of headteachers supported a consistent approach.
  • 95% agreed there needed to be exceptional circumstances for authorising absences.
    • 25% believe holiday and family time should be included
    • 17% compassionate circumstances (presumably meaning bereavements etc.)
    • 13% believe parents work constraints should be considered
    • 13% believe special events and celebrations (presumably weddings, religious ceremonies etc.)
    • 10% believe each case should be considered separately
So although everyone believes attendance is important, they clearly disagree with issuing truancy fines for term-time holidays or blanket bans – something matched by wider public opinion.

As a compromise, some suggest limited term-time holidays should be allowed based on the pupil's attendance, performance and behaviour.

Glanogwr : Short path, big headache

The Glanogwr path from the Newbridge Fields steps.
Glanogwr House is on the right.

It's funny what motivates people to campaign....

Since Bridgend Town Council moved to Carnegie House (the old library), their former base at Glanogwr on the south side of Bridgend – which was shared with BCBC – has become surplus to requirements. BCBC subsequently put the building up for sale.

Subject to planning consent, the site has been sold to developers. As part of the deal, the footprint of the site could be extended to include a short path and copse linking Glanogwr Road and Bowham Avenue with steps to Newbridge Fields. It's a popular shortcut for Brynteg Comprehensive pupils who live in Broadlands or Newcastle, as well as a shortcut to Bridgend Life Centre and the fields themselves.

The path itself is protected and will have to be diverted regardless, but the loss of even such a small piece of open space prompted a strong reaction from local residents, taking the form of a 289 signature petition, 56 formal objections, as well as a Facebook page.

As you can tell by the photo above (which I took earlier this week), if the path is reduce to a 2/3 metre wide alleyway along the edge, it's going to be pretty grim and uninviting.

Grim and uninviting is, unfortunately, what's coming.

BCBC have dismissed the objections, as Newbridge Fields is considered enough open space in itself that the loss of the copse won't have a detrimental impact. BCBC's cabinet has therefore decided to give final approval to the sale.

Bridgend Council go camera shy?

"Too shy, shy; hush, hush; eye to eye...."
As I said back in December 2013, BCBC were supposed to have launched recording and/or streaming of full council meetings at the annual general meeting back in May. Then it was pushed back to July – nada. There doesn't appear to be anything this month either.

I don't own any tin-foil headwear, so I'm going to presume the delay has a reasonable explanation. That could be technical problems, or changes to what format the streams will take. I'm not going to be too impressed if they've had a last minute change of heart.

Judging by the minutes (which are usually produced 2-3 weeks after the meetings), in the absense of any real opposition, full council meetings in BCBC aren't exactly riveting stuff, and make Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire look positively entertaining.

Having said that, as Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire have proven, it's absolutely vital to see local democracy in action as it's exists as a closed shop as it is. BCBC should launch the streams as soon as they practically can. They've dragged their feet on this long enough. It won't be long until some people ask themselves what they've got to hide.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Scots Wha Nae

"Freeman stand, or Freeman fa'"
(Pic : The Telegraph)

It's a bit strange to say this, but unfortunately I was right.

As expected, Scotland has rejected independence by 55.3% to 44.7%. I predicted a no vote of 56-44 on an 80-85% turnout (actual figure 84.5%), so I was pretty much spot on.

Why the No side won

"The Positive Case for Union" as presented by Better Together.

It's too early to offer detailed reasons why the Scots rejected independence, but there are a few things you can pick up from the campaign itself.

"Project Fear" worked – If you generate too many uncertainties in people's minds, the likelihood that they would reject a proposition will no doubt increase. A feature of other independence referendums, like Quebec, is that the closer polling day gets, the more likely people will opt for the "safest option". As I said yesterday, a lot of wavering undecideds, "soft yes" and "shy no" voters probably verged on the side of the status quo and voted no at the last minute. It looks like postal votes went heavily in the no's favour too.

There were too many questions that weren't answered by the yes campaign at the right time and to the right extent - using currency as an example. Concerns over currency might seem technocratic, but it guides absolutely everything from high end macroeconomics to daily life.

Although the position of independence and things like currency are debatable (a currency union was nailed-on despite the bluster, it's in everyone's interests), the doubts were always there. After everything people have been through since the Great Recession they were perhaps less likely to take a fiscal risk.

Yes Scotland lost women and older voters early on – I wouldn't be surprised if, when the number-crunching is done, the referendum was lost amongst middle-age women and pensioners. The polling figures have long pointed towards this being the case.

Better Together very nearly blew it with "Patronising BT Woman", but – let's face it – the archetypal small-c conservative mother wanting to "think of the children" would probably back the status quo anyway. The advert was simply preaching to the choir, and was done to stop their vote shifting yes-ward. Also, an independent Scotland shouldn't have any problem meeting its welfare obligations, but do anything to even hint at threatening pensions or elderly entitlements and you lose older voters.

Despite Alex Salmond's clear political talent, by the end, the campaign turned a bit macho and triumphalist with echos of Labour in 1992. Nicola Sturgeon and other senior women MSPs and personalities should've had a more prominent role in the yes campaign, and you've got to wonder what impact Margo MacDonald would've had if she were still with us.

Yes Scotland took a gamble, hoping there would be a similar bounce to the one the SNP enjoyed in 2011, but they didn't quite pull it off. If the referendum were a month later, or that YouGov poll were a week later....who knows?

"Astroturfing" wasn't enough
– Yes Scotland was a very well-organised, decentralised, grass-roots led campaign that crossed all sections of Scottish society. The Anglo-Scottish media and Westminster machine are still a giant though. Until the panicked last fortnight, there was latent but not outright bias by British media establishment. Then it became more obvious, and disgraceful, and should – quite rightly – damage the global and domestic reputation of the BBC.

Trying to control the debate up against such a media machine - and pretty much the entire Scottish domestic mainstream press (notable exceptions like The Sunday Herald aside) - was always going to be a struggle. To their credit, Yes Scotland very nearly pulled it off.

The internet clearly isn't the be all and end all of political debate it's being made out to be. But sites like Wings over Scotland and Bella Caledonia probably played a role is getting the yes vote to as high a position it did. The future of the Scottish blogosphere is looking very, very bright indeed to the point of becoming mainstream. The same can't be said in Wales, unfortunately.

The arguments were weak and incomplete – I've read Scotland's Future from cover to cover because it'll certainly help me build up my own Independence Index for however long I'm blogging. Despite the pdf version being more than 400+ pages long, it felt incomplete. There was minimal coverage of many of the things I've covered even on this blog like abortion (which was mentioned in passing), genetic engineering, stem cell research, net neutrality....

It would've been better to have produced separate, detailed white papers on things like defence and foreign affairs and released them gradually over the course of the campaign. It felt too much like a policy push from the SNP instead of a neutral look at the sort of (largely limitless) options independence would've brought Scotland. So although the Unionist campaign was somewhat disunited, you can say something similar of the Nationalists. I doubt Greens, republicans and socialists would've liked what was outlined in Scotland's Future.

By the end, despite the widespread public enthusiasm, the yes campaign became a competition about how many Facebook likes and retweets you can get over the quality of the argument. The big rallies and publicity stunts were mostly an mirage - it's a mistake Plaid Cymru think they'll be able to repeat in Wales. It might look good on camera, but there's not much there. You can fill a public square with hundreds, even thousands, of supporters but elections are decided by the hundreds of thousands who aren't there.

It all probably relied too much on emotional/romantic "heart" arguments and gradually neglected "head" arguments in order to whip people into a frenzy.

What happens next?

"Politicians make promise on the hoof."
Let's see where this is heading....
(Pic : BBC)
That's unclear, and in a twisted way there's perhaps more long-term uncertainty now than there would've been had Scotland voted yes. If they'd voted yes, they would've become independent circa 2016 and all the issues like currency, debt and EU membership would've been ironed out one way or another.

This isn't a crippling blow to Scottish nationalism and, if anything, if Westminster now fails to deliver on any of promises as a result of a no vote – or if there's some sort of pathetic "backlash" from the rest of the Union - all those who hesitantly voted no will vote yes in any future referendum. The momentum will still be with yes long after this vote, it'll just climb slower. With every single setback at Westminster, I fully expect  #ShouldveVotedYes to become a popular hashtag on the Scottish Twittersphere.

Now, instead of the certainty of independence, we have the uncertainty of constitutional fudging done on the back of a fag packet.

Although the UK will survive for the medium-term, Scotland's position remains awkward as it's still unclear what constitutional reforms will take place. It'll be odd if Scots have rejected the chance to control and shape things like foreign affairs, welfare and defence for the sake of controlling the "Work Programme" and rail franchises.

Westminster needs to play this carefully, and the Scottish Government still have a strong hand to get "Devo Max" out of them, which could settle the constitutional argument for several decades. Scotland could get as close to independence as possible without actually threatening the Union, like some sort of confederal arrangement.

The status quo would only have been a serious option if this had been a very strong no (70-80%) – like the 1979 devolution referendum in Wales. There's absolutely no way Westminster can roll back devolution either without prompting a serious constitutional crisis that – judging by the polarisation seen in Scotland – could turn nasty.

I suppose I've been slightly prophetic. Back in 2011, I compared the Scottish situation to Quebec, and that's precisely where were are now. The no vote wasn't a strong endorsement of the Union – but it was enough to win the day; while the yes vote was sizable enough to mean this is unlikely to be the end of the matter, despite failing.

Will we have "neverendums" in Scotland until they're ready to say yes? Alex Salmond has ruled it out for a least 18 years (not that he'll be SNP leader that long). So again, just as I said a few weeks ago – we'll probably return to this in the 2020s or 2030s. Sometimes I don't like being right.

I imagine David Cameron is a very, very relieved man. If this had been a yes vote it would've been very hard to see him continuing as Prime Minister. That doesn't let him, or the other two major Westminster parties, off the hook. Labour's campaigning was an absolute shower, while the Lib Dems were nowhere to be seen. If they don't realise how close they came to blowing it, and come to see this as a vote of confidence and not a last ditch call for radical constitutional reform, some very senior politicians need to take a long hard look at themselves. Judging by their initial reaction to the result, it looks like they realise the desire for concrete change.

To even get into a position to ask such a question is damaging to the Union. Of the officially-recognised independence referendums during the 19th and 20th centuries, most have eventually led to independence.

This will have caused no real problems for the SNP (or other parties that supported independence like the Greens and Scottish Socialists). This will go down as a glorious defeat, and they're nailed-on for a third term in government - even if they take a hit in 2016.

It's unclear what the future holds for Alex Salmond. He can, if he wants to, bow out with his head held high, or he can carry on the momentum into 2016 and beyond
. With Alex Salmond stepping down, Nicola Sturgeon is a leader in waiting but will have to be careful not to oversee a split between centrist-liberal and more socialist wings of the SNP. If Scotland had voted yes I would've expected the SNP to have disbanded anyway into two or three separate parties, or bolster what remained of Labour, Greens, Conservatives etc.

On what happens to the rest of us, I'm convinced there won't be a grand pan-UK "Constitutional Convention". It looks as though any changes are going to be fast-tracked before the Westminster elections next year and that's simply not enough time to get decent proposals on the table. There's no doubt in my mind that Wales will get further powers down the line – especially over criminal justice – but it'll be a negotiation between Cardiff and London and will be unrelated to the independence referendum. Silk (Part I, Part II) is all we're getting.

Carwyn can say what he likes but it's not as if he's been listened to so far - something I said almost a year ago to the day. I might not be a journalist or have the inside track into what's happening in Cardiff Bay, but most of the time I do know what I'm talking about. I'm getting fed up of saying things months, sometimes years, in advance that "our betters" only cotton on to at the last minute. AMs - in particular Welsh Government ministers - appear to have a very inflated sense of their impact and influence.

It'll be interesting to see what will happen in Catalonia next, who will probably have received a psychological boost due to the close(ish) result (or a hit due to the no vote), and are moving towards their own independence referendum despite constitutional interference from Madrid.

You could compare this campaign to a very bruising Rocky-style 30-round heavyweight contest. In the end, both sides are completely battered, knackered and have sustained heavy injuries. The underdog Nationalist boxer might well have collapsed at the end from a few heavy punches, but the Unionist boxer – although standing – is walking off dribbling and completely unrecognisable.

The National Assembly is due to debate Scotland's decision next week, and of course I'll cover what's said.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Referendum Day

Decisions, decisions.....
(Pic : The Guardian)

I have an uncharacteristically short blog today.

I've tried to stay out of this as much as possible, because the Scots are perfectly capable of making a decision that suits themselves based on the evidence and information presented, and don't need to be condescendingly told what to do by outsiders.

Our media (and some of our politicians) have gone overboard with the navel-gazing "What does this mean for Wales?" guff, culminating with the largely pointless debate on Monday. I hate to break this to you, but we're on the periphery of this debate however much you would like us not to be.

I can say with confidence that - unless you have ties with, or interests in, Scotland - the result is going to have minimal impact on Wales either way. There's not going to be a surge in support for independence should Scotland vote yes, the Barnett Formula won't be reformed, while the Silk Commission is all we're getting in terms of new powers for the foreseeable future. The best we can hope for is an accelerated timetable for Silk II.

Although it should be obvious that I have a preference, there are no "right" or "wrong" answers here, just a single choice facing the Scottish people.

I've prepared two posts for tomorrow – one in the event of a yes, one if there's a no - and one of them's going to get deleted.

I suppose I have to play the predictions game, and I always let my head rule my heart. So as for what I think will happen, there'll be a wobble amongst undecideds and soft yes voters, and the recent narrowing of the polls will encourage "shy noes" to turnout.

So I predict a "no vote", 56-44 on a 80-85% turnout.

I've never wanted to be more hopelessly wrong in my life.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Cardiff's Euro 2020 Bid : UEFA's Verdict

A decision is due to be made on 19th September as to whether Cardiff will
be amongst 12 cities hosting the 2020 UEFA European Football Championships.
(Pic : The Telegraph)
I was preparing a timeline of events leading to the Thursday's referendum, but it became so lumbering I decided to bin it and focus on something more productive instead; that something being the Football Association of Wales' (FAW) bid to host some matches of the 2020 European Championships at Cardiff's 74,500 capacity Millennium Stadium.

Back in 2012, UEFA decided that instead of being hosted by a single country, or joint bid, Euro 2020 would be hosted by cities across Europe.

The shortlist has been whittled down to 19 potential host cities, with two bidding packages – one for group games and early knock-out rounds ("standard package"), another to host the semi-finals and final ("finals package"). Only England's Wembley Stadium and Germany's Allianz Arena in Munich are bidding to host the finals. Wales has bid for a standard package.

Last week, UEFA released their evaluation report on the host cities – including Cardiff (pdf). The host cities will be announced on Friday (19th September).

Now it's worth looking at what UEFA said about Cardiff's bid, as it underlines some major problems facing the city, in addition to some key strengths.

The Good News

Cardiff has experience of hosting major football matches,
and the facilities available are of a high standard.
(Pic : The Independent)
  • The legacy and social responsibility criteria are said to have been met to a "very high standard", while political and footballs structures are said to be "sound".
  • Safety and crowd control measures are more than sufficient and of good quality.
  • There's a very good ratio of concessions and toilet facilities per spectator, and provision for disabled spectators "exceeds UEFA's guidelines".
  • Pitch size, ground-keeping, dressing room and official meeting room etc. requirements are fully-met.
  • All broadcasting and media requirements are met and well catered for.
  • The stadium is well-connected to, and well-served by, public transport, while last-kilometre accessibility is "comfortably ensured".
  • Airport capacity in Cardiff and the surrounding area should be enough to handle supporter requirements.
  • The Welsh Government have guaranteed "the availability of sufficient accommodation" for supporters (it's unclear what precisely these assurances are).
  • Training facilities and hotels for teams are "high quality" though some temporary installations may be required.
  • There's apparently an "interesting proposal" for the fan zone (inside Cardiff Castle is my guess), and Cardiff has experience at hosting major international events.
  • There's plenty of advertising and commercial space.
The Bad News
Once again, poor international connections and lack of high-end
hospitality facilities conspire to break wind in Cardiff's face.
(Pic :
  • Despite the large capacity, the Millennium Stadium only partly meets UEFA's guidelines due to a lack of parking facilities nearby.
  • Hospitality requirements are only partly met, as there's not enough space for corporate sponsors, and there are too few executive boxes.
  • There's not enough space around the stadium for temporary facilities and UEFA say "alternative solutions will need to be found".
  • Cardiff will probably have to rely on Bristol, Birmingham and Heathrow airports for international access.
  • There's not enough hotel accommodation in Cardiff itself, and alternative accommodation will need to be provided for supporters (i.e university dormitories, guest houses). The number of hotel rooms for officials just about meets UEFA's requirements.

What's next?
Dublin and Glasgow are likely to be Cardiff's main rivals, and apart
from stadium size, their bids are much stronger.
(Pic :
We have the stadium, but we don't seem have all of the pieces in place in terms of transport and infrastructure.

I'd be surprised if the bids from Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Belarus, Russia and Israel succeed. That leaves fourteen bids left for the final twelve slots, including Wales.

Wembley is almost certainly going to be selected if rumours of a quid-pro-quo deal between the English and German FAs are true; so one of the other three bids from Great Britain and Ireland will likely be paired with Wembley for geographical reasons.

Wales' direct rivals will, therefore, be Glasgow (Hampden Park) and Dublin (Aviva Stadium). Hampden Park has hosted a Champions League final, while Aviva Stadium hosted the 2011 Europa League final.

The Millennium Stadium is the best stadium in Europe to have never hosted a major European football final, and that goes in Cardiff's favour. It's also the closest stadium to Wembley, which would reduce travel times for teams and sponsors - not that UEFA care about fans traipsing around the continent.

The factors going against Cardiff are that Glasgow and Dublin have superior airports, more hotel beds and far greater international connections. These are long-standing problems in Wales that have been brought up lots of times without any real action by the Welsh Government or local authorities.

Should Cardiff fail this time around, you would expect the FAW to submit a bid for a Champions League final in the next couple of years. Until these big issues are solved, however, we'll keep hearing the same reasons to turn down hosting rights for major events again and again and again.

UPDATE 19/09/14 : Cardiff's bid was unsuccessful. Against my expectations, both Glasgow and Dublin will host group and last-16 games, while Wembley has been selected to host the final and semi-finals. Even Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, was chosen ahead of Cardiff.