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Thursday, 15 December 2016

Beginning of the End

Since August I've been asking myself, "Why am I still doing this?"

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Law to support Additional Learning Needs introduced

(Pic : Northampton College)
Having stood down the "picket line", it's worth giving those of you who might've laughed it off a friendly reminder of how much work's done here - just under two hours for this post; no pay, very little if any coverage of this topic anywhere other than the BBC. It's also what's going to be lost in the future; more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

FMQs: On Strike

The final First Ministers Questions of 2016 takes place this afternoon, but you won't be getting anything from me.

Monday, 12 December 2016

National Ass. sucked into own rectum

We really, really could be calling our AMs "Ass-sucks" in the future - not joking. Read on.

As suggested yesterday, it's becoming harder to tell where reality ends and satire starts.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Committees Bite Size #1: December 2016

Like First Minister's Questions, this is an experiment in improving Oggy Bloggy Ogwr's depth of coverage. As some of you might've seen from my fifth anniversary post last March, I only cover about a third of the Assembly's committee work. This move will enable me to push closer to 80-100%.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Senedd busts a gut

(Pic :

We're all living longer, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're any healthier. We also all know that obesity and lack of regular exercise are two of the most significant public health crises facing Wales.

There's no single root cause and no single solution. The one thing that can be said is that – like many public health issues – it comes down to changing behaviour.

There was a members debate in October on the benefits of walking and cycling (Senedd rallies to get Wales moving). This is a sequel, but with greater emphasis on the public health impacts of sedentary lifestyles.

The motion called for the Assembly to note that:
  • Obesity continue to rise and is more prevalent amongst poorer communities.
  • Changing eating habits is difficult and down to the availability and affordability of good food as well as general cooking skills.
  • The Active Travel Act 2013 is yet to make an impact on levels of walking and cycling.
  • Declines in smoking have come about through education and government action. A combination of education, legislation and public procurement changes are needed to address the growing public health problem.

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) started off with the stark statistic that one quarter of Welsh adults are obese and 60% overweight (clip). The consequences are serious, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers. Also, the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor is 9-to-11 years, most of which is "completely avoidable".

Less than a third of adults eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, while just 1% of food advertising promotes vegetables. Despite schemes like Appetite for Life, Wales has amongst the worst child obesity rates in the UK. Three measures Jenny highlighted that could bring about change include: restrictions on marketing (which is non-devolved), promoting healthy eating in schools and using taxes to change behaviour.

Jenny cited a scheme in Flintshire where children order school meals at registration. This eliminates waste by letting caterers know exactly how much to prepare, with seasonal products promoted – no other local authority has followed Flintshire's lead.

Around the world, France has introduced a tax on sugary drinks, Finland and Mexico have put taxes on sweets, sugary drinks and similar things like ice cream. In Hungary, they apply a public health tax to certain products, with consumers subsequently choosing cheaper or healthier alternatives and food manufactures reformulating their products to avoid taxation.

Plaid Cymru health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn), said it was no overstatement that obesity is one of greatest health challenges of our age, but the tide isn't turning in the same way as smoking and alcohol where young people are now less likely to take them up (clip). Childhood obesity is worse now than it was a few years ago, and Rhun was saddened Anglesey has one of worst levels of childhood obesity, with a third of 5 year olds overweight or obese.

Tackling obesity needs the same commitment and resources as tackling smoking. Heavy taxation and advertising bans cut smoking rates, but tackling obesity makes that look easy. That's because the health impacts of obesity are not automatically understood as there's no single source, and foods only become harmful when over-consumed. There's no level of support to the obese similar to that provided for smokers, while governments still make decisions that contribute to unhealthy lifestyles like car-centric town and city planning.

Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) highlighted issues in disadvantaged areas. 63% of adults in Rhondda Cynon Taf were either overweight or obese, and obesity is expected to cost the Welsh NHS £465million and the wider economy £2.4billion by 2050 (clip). Also, only 1 in 3 children meet physical activity guidelines (see also - Fat of the Land : More work needed on childhood obesity). Policies like free swimming promote exercise, while Change4Life promotes health eating in schools. Cwm Taf health board are also providing obese pregnant women with specialist ante-natal services to prevent weight gain during and after pregnancy.

Vikki was disappointed the UK Government watered down proposals on sugar and unhealthy food advertising, particularly as unhealthy food remains cheap and accessible. Welsh children also suffer from a "nature deficit disorder" where they have weaker attachment to the outdoors than children elsewhere in the UK; dealing with this can encourage them to take more exercise.

Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) believed it was important not to just talk about this but get to grips with it (clip). As a doctor he's dealt with problems stemming from obesity, seeing the solution as combination of healthy eating, stricter portion sizes and increasing breast-feeding (see also: Life, Ethics & Independence XI : Breastfeeding) to give babies a good start in life - research shows it decreases obesity.

Nobody has to go to extremes on personal fitness, it's as simple as walking as much as possible; this "natural fitness" can't be replicated by prescription medicines. Dai talked up legislative measures, which have successfully reduced smoking and can change the way society thinks about an issue.

John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) said it's also important to have strong local examples in what can be done to meet the challenges so good practice is spread out (clip). Newport holds "physical activity summits" with key partners. He also praised a local Park Run scheme, where hundreds of people take part every week, with agreement to hold a second meeting. John hoped physical literacy will be driven forward in schools to embed good habits in young people that stay with them for life (see also: Should PE be a compulsory subject?).

Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central) said levels of walking and cycling haven't shown much improvement since the Active Travel Act, with an actual decline in walking to school (clip). He asked whether the Welsh Government could offer financial incentives to encourage walking to school and outdoor activities? They could also support leisure centres, who through outsourcing may increase prices and entrance fees. He criticised the lack of targets to boost active travel in the Future Generations Act, and questioned how cyclists and walking will be integrated into the South Wales Metro.

Long distance cycle paths -  welcome though they are - do little
to encourage "everyday" physical activity.
(Pic : Visit Wales)

Julie Morgan AM (Lab, Cardiff North) was proud of the Active Travel Act, but it has to be used at every opportunity (clip). A message needs to go out that people can help develop safe walking and cycling routes that are useful to them. However, health habits need to start young – whether breast-feeding or ante-natal support – and Sustrans are targeting young mothers and mothers-to-be, as there's evidence that if parents walk or cycle, their children will too.

Julie also focused on poverty. For both boys and girls aged 2-15, there's a greater prevalence of obesity in lower-income groups. Nutrient-dense foods are more expensive and lower-income consumers have lower protein, iron, oily fish and vitamin intake.

Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli) endorsed John Griffith's praise for Park Run, being enthused by the support of volunteers – many of whom wouldn't do any exercise if the scheme didn't exist, making the £6,000 investment in getting Park Runs off the ground a "no-brainer" (clip).

The Active Travel Act "shouldn't be a tick-box exercise", but is a huge opportunity to get people who take little or no exercise to do some as part of their everyday routine; leisure centres and gyms are ineffective with such groups. Most car journeys are under 1 mile and these journeys need to be done by foot or by bike.

He said AMs had a cognitive dissonance in saying they want to do something on public health, but being inconsistent in how they apply it. He cited support for free parking in town centres as, despite AMs wanting to increase active travel, the policy encourages car travel. He also had guarded criticism for Carmarthenshire Council for focusing development of long-distance cycling/walking routes for tourists at the expense of utilitarian point-to-point urban routes in Llanelli.

Minister for Public Health & Social Services, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower), said that while the Welsh Government were doing more to create the circumstances for people to make healthy choices they can't do it alone (clip).

The Change4Life programme will be complemented by Public Health Wales training health staff to offer brief, helpful advice on lifestyle changes. At a UK level, we need restrictions on advertising of high fat, sugar and salt foods – particularly to children. She supports the UK's sugary drinks levy but would like to see progress, citing the voluntary salt reduction with food producers scheme, which has resulted in salt levels falling by 50% since 2012. Procurement criteria will factor in nutrition – something already being done in the NHS and set to expand across the public sector.

In terms of active travel, there's a commitment to work with schools to develop walk-to-school schemes and fund cycling and walking training. Local authorities are also currently working on their integrated active travel maps under the Act.

Over 80% of the adults are non-smokers for the first time since records began, and this has been achieved through preventing uptake amongst the young and helping people quit. The recently-introduced Public Health Bill includes "strong" measures on smoking, while there's a target to reduce the percentage of the population who smoke population to 16% by 2020.

In summing up, Conservative health spokesperson, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.), said the Minister could do one thing today without a grand strategy (clip): increase the amount of time dedicated to sport in schools (which has consistently declined over the decade) and be more creative in defining "physical activity" – girls may be more body conscious and dislike team sports, for example.

It was also all well and good taking part in Park Runs or going to a gym surrounded by "Lycra-clad bunnies" – but the large group of people who are overweight need to feel less embarrassed and out of place when attempts are made to "bring them in", as their body image may put them off exercise in the first place.

The motion was unanimously approved.

Guts up!

It was always going to be difficult to cover so many points in a limited amount
of time, but cooking lessons were broadly overlooked in the debate.
(Pic : Barry Comprehensive School)

I'm not going to spend too much time on commentary as I've written a lot about this in the past and I intend to look at junk food (with a view towards independence) in January, so I'll be coming back to some of the issues raised yesterday, particularly tax.

The only area in the motion that AMs didn't really address was cooking lessons. There's always a risk that, by trying to create a "literacy" for what are basic life skills, school timetables will be full to bursting - but I'd expect the argument for "food literacy" to rumble on ahead of the new curriculum.

Points made by Lee Waters and Angela Burns are worth picking up on. Firstly, there really is too much emphasis on long-distance walking and cycling routes aimed at tourists than those within and between urban areas (though hopefully the integrated travel maps will help there). Having a nice, scenic bike ride, walk or run along an old railway line is fine, but people need to walk from school, shops and work – not just in their leisure time - or the whole thing's pointless.

It's often the easiest option for local authorities because longer-distance routes are often much easier to engineer; for example, they won't interfere with road traffic as much and don't require large number of drop kerbs or other safety features. So you might end up with a high quality route between, for argument's sake, Pontypridd and Cardiff - but as soon as you get to Cardiff and stray too far from the Taff Trail things get more difficult to engineer and this in turn will put casual cyclists and walkers off, maintaining the cycle of car dependence.

Secondly, Angela Burns was right to say that as the majority of the adult population are now overweight or obese, the hectoring we've seen with smoking probably isn't going to work. The approach need to be subtle and needs to match what individuals want or would feel comfortable with. For example, women-only gyms staffed by women personal trainers, a wider variety of sports offered in schools (as said) and harder-nosed measures like banning secondary school pupils from leaving premises at lunchtime (whilst simultaneously offering nutritonally balanced options for them; ideally with their input).

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

PISA: Denial to Anger to Depression

(Pic : E)

Climb into your bath, track your arteries with a razor blade and bring on The Smiths.

It's PISA time and there's nothing the Welsh enjoy more than a good moan, revelling in the doom as we all – once again - rubber neck the slow motion car crash that is the Welsh education syst.... Glyn over at National Left I'm getting a strange sense of deja vu.

As you all know, the OECD's PISA tests in reading, mathematics and science are used to draw comparisons between the performance of 15-year-olds in the world's major economies.

PISA tests – which have an heavy emphasis on problem-solving and application of theories learned in the classroom – are taken every three years with the latest results released yesterday (6th December). There's a more detailed background on PISA's importance from the Assembly Research Service here.

There's been a growing sense from before May's Assembly election and the period after it that the Welsh Government have been softening us up for bad news.

Labour rolled back on promises that we would see improved PISA scores, while current Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), re-emphasised the long-standing need for XYZ (usually a mix of collaboration, curriculum changes and more spending on disadvantaged pupils) to improve matters.

In the end, the managing of expectations was justified....but it's not quite as bad as it seems.

The Results
PISA & Wales 2006-2015

The general report is available here (pdf), and the summary relevant to Wales and the UK is available here (pdf).

I'll get the good news out of the way first.

Welsh performances in mathematics has jumped significantly - up 10 points from 468 in 2012 to 478 in 2015. Although Wales is still ranked bottom of the Home Nations and below the OECD average, the gap has closed with England (493), Northern Ireland (493) and Scotland (491). It's actually our second-best result since Welsh students started taking the tests.

Now the bad news.

In reading, the Welsh score fell by 3 points compared to 2012 from 480 to 477 and remains below the OECD average. This still lags behind England (500), Scotland (493) and Northern Ireland (497) but because the other Home Nations have done worse than expected, the performance gap has closed slightly.

Finally, science – which has traditionally been Wales' strongest area. Welsh scores have fallen by 6 points from 491 to 485, with England (512), Northern Ireland (500) and Scotland (497) all out-performing Wales yet again. The 20-25 point gap hasn't changed much.

Overall, this is another set of disappointing results with one big bright spot on maths; but for once it's the other nations in the UK who have more to worry about – in particular Scotland and, considering the amount of effort that's gone into making their curriculum "more rigerous", England too.

Other key findings:

  • There's no significant difference in performance between boys and girls in science. While girls out-perform boys in reading and boys out-perform girls in maths, the gender gap is narrower in Wales in both cases than the other Home Nations. Boys are marginally more likely to be "top performers" (proficient at the highest levels 5 & 6 in the tests) than girls.
  • Only 4-5% of pupils in Wales are considered "top performers" in reading, maths and science, compared to the UK average of 10-12%.
  • 28% of Welsh pupils expect to have a career where scientific knowledge is a prerequisite, near enough the same as the UK average but higher than the OECD average (24%). However, in Wales more top performers in science (55%) expect to have a career in science than the lowest performers (17%) when compared to the rest of the UK.
  • Headteachers in Wales are significantly less likely (20%) to say shortages in teachers with a science degree impacts delivery of lessons than the rest of the UK (43%).
  • 35% of Welsh pupils said they skipped at least one day of school in the two weeks prior to the PISA tests - the highest percentage in the UK and significantly higher than the OECD average (20%). This is more common in disadvantaged schools than advantaged schools.

International Comparisons

  • In mathematics, the Welsh score (478) places us roughly mid-table alongside Malta (479), Hungary (477), but ahead of the United States (470), Israel (470) and most of eastern Europe.
  • In reading, the Welsh score (477) again places us somewhere in the middle to lower-half alongside Argentina (475), Luxembourg (481) and Lithuania (472).
  • When it comes to science, Wales (485) is just about in the top half of the table in between Russia (487) and Luxembourg (482), but out-performing Italy (481), Iceland (473) and Israel (467).
  • Overall, the tables are dominated by Singapore, Japan, Estonia, Taiwan, Finland and Canada. Wales is about 10-15 points behind the scores attained by most EU member states.

Five Stages of Grief

Here's what previous education ministers have had to say following the release of PISA results.

Denial - Jane Hutt (2007):
"The real benefits of the PISA assessments will come not from the headline figures and league table rankings, but from the detailed analysis of strengths and weaknesses and what more we can learn from the best and most effective practice internationally."

Anger - Leighton Andrews (2010):
"These results are disappointing. They show an unacceptable fall in our overall performance - everyone involved in the education sector in Wales should be alarmed. There can be no alibis and no excuses. Countries with less money spent on education than Wales have done better than Wales. Schools, local authorities, and ourselves as government need to look honestly at these results and accept responsibility for them."

Bargaining - Huw Lewis (2013):
"Everybody working in and around the Welsh education sector needs to take a long hard look in the mirror this week. The PISA results are stark and the message is very clear, we must improve educational attainment and standards right across the board. I expect to see the impact of our reforms reflected in the next set of results. They're ambitious and I believe they will have a lasting, sustainable and positive effect on education in Wales."

Depression - Kirsty Williams (2016):
"We can all agree we are not yet where we want to be. While we have seen a 10 point lift in our maths score, the results for science are disappointing. Last month I invited the OECD to look at how we are doing in Wales; their advice to me was unambiguous: Stay the course, be brave, you are doing the right things. The easy thing to do would be rip up the plan and start again. But we owe it to our pupils, parents and the profession to do what is right."

Maybe in 2019 Wales will finally reach Acceptance.

PISA – useful tool as it is – isn't the be all and end all when it comes to measuring educational attainment, and its wider economic impact is negligible with very little correlation between good PISA scores and a strong economy.

For example, a large part of South Korea – which consistently ranks near the top in PISA – has a GVA per capita very similar to Wales, while Welsh workers are about 25% more productive than those in Shanghai. PISA isn't a qualification either so has no bearing on employment prospects or a factor in determining that pupils are being "abandoned".

That said, there are no more excuses and Wales should be doing better than we are.

Where next?

Despite the marked improvement in maths, the portents of doom from our media – even Wales Online graciously managed to drop advertising-masquerading-as-news about a bar in Cardiff to cover this – are as pronounced as previous years.

We can't see beyond the British Bubble and realise this is about 70+ nations and stateless nations. Everything comes down to England, when Wales is decidedly mid to upper-mid table both globally and at a European level, not at "the bottom" of anything. We really need to be looking at the likes of Estonia, Finland and the Republic of Ireland for a fair benchmark.

Government AMs have gone through the usual platitudes of saying how disappointed they are and that things will improve, while opposition AMs are screaming for "something to be done" without actually saying what.

Based on Kirsty Williams' reaction, there's a realisation that it's perhaps better to let reforms filter through than take knee-jerk action, but I'm fully expecting the Education Secretary to still come under pressure from certain quarters. There's no such thing as long-term thinking in Wales, particularly when we feel "embarrassed" in front of the English, when they're more concerned about being embarrassed in front of the Chinese.

Some of those reforms – the introduction of numeracy tests and the start of separate numeracy and mathematics GCSEs - may well have contributed in part to the improvement we've seen in maths. Our reading and maths scores have remained relatively stable since 2006; it's our science scores that are dragging us down  - as you can see from the graph earlier. Science rarely gets a look in when it comes to discussions on Welsh education, it's all about literacy and numeracy.

However, one of the key lessons which the OECD themselves say nations should take on board, is that the best performing nations value and respect teachers. It's not about class sizes. It's not about selective schools. It's not about bilingualism. It's not about how much money you spend per pupil.

As much as I don't want to let Labour off the hook for their failure, for the next PISA cycle - and ahead of the eventual introduction of the new National Curriculum - let's try something really radical: do nothing.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

FMQs: PISA, Article 50 & Bank Closures

Obviously the big story today is the OECD's PISA 2015 results – I'm pushing to get something done for tomorrow but I'm currently unwell 😰. In the meantime, there's the penultimate FMQs of 2016 with PISA featuring heavily as you might expect.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Arfon Jones & Legalising Drugs

(Pic : Daily Post)

Gwynedd county councillor, Cllr. Sion Jones (Lab, Bethel), has called for the resignation of PCC Arfon Jones (Plaid, North Wales Police) - who recently called for drugs to be "legalised", and offered his support to the idea of clean "fix rooms" for drug addicts who use injectable drugs after a man was filmed injecting in a Caernarfon Bus Station toilet.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Reshaping the Senedd

(Pic :

There's been a fair bit of discussion for several years on how many Assembly Members we need. The general consensus within the "Bay Bubble" is that 60 AMs is too few to meet the growing demands of the legislature – which will have tax-varying powers from 2018 and, at some indeterminate post-Brexit point in the future, some of the responsibilities of the EU.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Law replacing landfill tax introduced

(Pic : South Wales Argus)

Earlier this week, Finance & Local Government Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West), introduced the second Bill to establishes a new Welsh tax. It followed hot on the heels from the law to replace stamp duty – which was introduced in September.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Senedd Watch - November 2016

  • On November 3rd, the UK High Court ruled the UK Parliament must vote to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the Brexit process, and the powers are not held under royal prerogative by the Prime Minister. The UK Government appealed to the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

FMQs : Sepsis, Letting Fees & Sport Wales

Sometimes AMs discuss stuff that only matters to themselves or those who lobby them. Sometimes they concentrate on things that have more topical relevance – as they did today.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Assembly backs "Smart Farming"

(Pic : Emirates Business)

As someone who loathes buzzwords, I'm sceptical of the current trend of sticking "smart" in front of everything, but as such technologies have become more commonplace it's playing a part in all walks of life.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

FMQs : Circuit of Wales, Water & Tolls

The big story this afternoon is the emergence of a potential "cash for access" scandal. I stress "potential".

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Who are "The Establishment"?

Is the idea of a single monolithic Establishment a myth?
(Pic : The Spectator)

2016 will be marked by a revolt against the status quo in liberal democracies. In Wales we've seen the election of UKIP AMs for the first time, followed by Brexit. Earlier this year there was an inconclusive Irish general election. There's also the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn in the face of opposition from Labour's aristocracy and finally Donald Trump's victory last week.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

FMQs : GPs, Chainsaws & Trump

There were a number of exchanges relating to the new President-Elect of the US this afternoon ( as you might expect) but the staple topic of health dominated discussion overall.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Carmarthenshire's Roll of Dishonour

This weekend, people will gather near monuments which, in some cases, will list the names of those who willingly and unwillingly sacrificed their lives in conflict.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Woodpeckers, Tits & Choughs

(Pic : Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)
In the last few weeks an alliance of environmental, conservation and ecology groups published a State of Nature report for 2016 (pdf). It didn't make good reading when it comes to protecting native Welsh species, with some spots of hope. There's more from the Assembly's Research Service here.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Public Health Bill (Re)Introduced

(Pic : BBC)

As you probably all know, the Fourth Assembly's Public Health Bill was troubled at several points, mainly because it proposed to ban "vaping" in public places in line with tobacco.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

FMQs : Veterans, USA & Article 50

It's a long one this week as I've decided to tack on the Assembly's response to the Article 50 judgement. There's also a sense of deja vu from recent FMQs as you'll probably see for yourselves.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Election 2016 : Where are they now?

It's six months since the Assembly election, so it's worth catching up with some of those who lost their seats to find out what they're up to now.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

FMQs Extra : Pembrokeshire, Heathrow & Orgreave

First Minister's Questions....without the First Minister.
(Pic : Wales Online)
As promised, I'm going to return to yesterday's plenary session and cover the four urgent questions asked following FMQs.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

FMQs : Autism, Teachers & Fireworks

Same stuff; different week. You know the drill.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Senedd Watch - October 2016

  • UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced a “Great Repeal Bill” would be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act 1973 and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. She also confirmed Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be triggered by the end of March 2017, starting a two-year EU withdrawal process.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

What type of Brexit suits Wales?

Soft Brexit vs Hard Brexit - the same process but different end results.
(Pic :

I said I wouldn't return to Brexit until something concrete happens. Now that we have a timetable for the activation of Article 50 , a recent ministerial meeting involving the devolved administrations and hints at what sort of Brexit the UK Government will pursue, it's worth coming back to it again.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Welsh Budget 2017-18

(Pic : BBC Wales)
The Welsh Government's spending plans for the next financial year were tabled in the Senedd on Tuesday by Local Government & Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West).

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

FMQs : Trains, Cash & Arts

AMs donned windbreakers and proverbially hung around platforms as the future of rail services dominated proceedings this week. It's also a week that marks the 50
th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster on Friday – with commemorations due at the Senedd tomorrow. It's budget week too and I hope to have something on that for tomorrow (Thursday at the latest).

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Dic Siôn Dafydd?

Traitor? Following his conscience? Legitimately disgruntled?
(Pic : Wales Online)

The timing's a bit of a shock, but the news isn't. This was going to be a more jocular post, but that's been shunted as there's only one story today and that's Dafydd Elis-Thomas' announcement last night that he's left Plaid Cymru and will sit out the rest of the term as an Independent AM.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Senedd rallies to get Wales moving

Only a third of Welsh schoolchildren get their recommended hour of physical activity a day.
Pic : Road Safety GB)

The latest backbench members debate was on the subject of physical activity, in particular walking and cycling.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

FMQs : Curious Tales, Cwmbran Hospital & Ireland

There was a varied FMQs today, with questions ranging from the M4, average earnings, the planning system and also a polite warning from the Llywydd.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Assembly Committee Slams Wales Bill

(Pic : BBC Wales)
Last Thursday, the National Assembly's Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee published its report into the latest draft of the Wales Bill, which is now in the unelected House of Lords (pdf).

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Plaid's Infrastructure Commission

(Pic : Plaid Cymru)
(Owen : It's funny how things turn out. I'm sure that counts as three correct predictions in a row. As for the recent controversial episode of Question Time this sums up what happens in pretty much every episode and why I don't watch political programmes. "Don't feed the trolls.")

On Monday, the Shadow Ministers for the Economy & Infrastructure – Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) and Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) respectively – launched a policy paper outlining their proposal to create a National Infrastructure Commission (pdf).

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Local Government Reform : Mergers Ditched

In case you were wondering, it's in reference to this.
Yesterday, Finance & Local Government Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West), unveiled the Welsh Government's latest proposals for local government reform.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

FMQs : Breakfast, Food & Cadw Merger

Another Tuesday, another FMQs and, as usual, there was plenty up for discussion.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A Polished Diamond?

(Pic : Wales Online)

A major review into tuition fees and student finance reported back earlier this week, authored by the Vice Chancellor of Aberdeen University, Prof. Ian Diamond.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Senedd Watch - September 2016

  • Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), announced government funding for Techniquest – a science education charity with sites in Cardiff and Wrexham – would end from 2021. Around a third of its £3.3million annual income is from government grants.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

AMs press for "decisive action" on Bovine TB

(Pic : The Guardian)
The issue of precisely how to deal with Bovine tuberculosis is one of the longest-running sagas in post-devolution Wales, and something that has become a serious threat to the livelihoods of dairy and beef farmers, even if they're compensated for the loss of livestock.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Senedd debates draft BBC Charter

(Pic : BBC Wales)

Yesterday, the National Assembly discussed the draft version of the BBC's new Royal Charter, which will set out operating conditions and public service remit for the broadcaster (and also has a knock-on impact on S4C). It comes amidst long-standing concerns over how the BBC portrays and serves Welsh audiences.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

FMQs : Mindfulness, Tourism & Winter is Coming

Health dominated today's FMQs, with questions on plenty of other matters too. It's going to be a busy week, with more on the Diamond Review, BBC Draft charter and Bovine TB in the next few posts....but there wasn't a mention of Brexit!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Big Brexit To Do List

Before Brexit can happen, we need to know what needs to be done beforehand.

I'm getting as fed up with the endless hot air surrounding Brexit as much as you probably are. This will be my final post on Brexit for the foreseeable future. I'm also considering ignoring any future statements/questions on this in the Senedd as nothing's actually happened yet and nobody seems to be in a rush to make anything happen either

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Bad Grammar?

(Pic : BBC)

There's been a lot of discussion in the UK press over the proposed expansion of grammar schools in England and Cornwall. Judging by the initial reaction the idea isn't as popular as some people might like to think it is, but it was inevitable it would be debated in the Senedd.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

FMQs : Refugees, Vetoes & Bloody Brexit

The weekly theatre of Carwyn Jones' questioning by AMs rolls into town yet again.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Boundary Commission Carves-Up Wales

Would you like a slice of De Clwyd a Gogledd Sir Faldwyn?
(Pic :

Earlier this week, the Boundary Commission for Wales unveiled their draft proposals for a reorganisation of the 40 Westminister constituencies in Wales.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Law to replace stamp duty introduced

(Pic :

The first piece of legislation of the Fifth Assembly was introduced on Tuesday (13th September) by Finance & Local Government Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West) – the snappily-titled Land Transaction Tax & Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes Bill.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

FMQs : Back to the Grind

Summer recess is over. AMs have returned to take their seats in the Senedd.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

A Guide to the Welsh Third Sector

(Pic : Barnardo's)

I'm going to guess most people reading this know what the Third Sector is as it's been in and out of the headlines – directly and indirectly – for many years, having become a friendlier face of private involvement in public services and alternative to top-down state planning.