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Cardiff’s Labour Council has announced the long-overdue redevelopment of Llanedeyrn’s Maelfa Shopping Centre.

The development will include 111 new homes and retail units as well as a new public square.

Planning consent was unanimously granted in April this year, with work planned to start on-site this Autumn. The first phase, extension of the Powerhouse Community Centre, will begin in coming weeks.

Construction will be comprise three phases of work. The first phase, which includes the Powerhouse Community Centre extension, is intended to complete early next year. The second and third phase works will follow on from this. The second phase will demolish and redevelop one side of the existing shopping centre, with the existing tenants moving within the site as necessary to allow the improvements to be made.

The development has been welcomed by the vast majority of local residents, with over 90% residents supported for the the plans presented to us in Autumn 2015 being received by the Council.

With planning consent is in place, it looks like it is only a matter of time before work gets underway. At last it looks like things are going to go ahead. However, residents are rightly sceptical following decades of empty promises and false dawns. People are only going to believe that things are happening when we see the builders move in and things start to take shape.

However, all in all, this is a very positive development. I’m delighted that the Council is committing to Llanederyn and Pentwyn, investing £5m in this long-overdue redevelopment. It has reportedly taken some time to unpick the contract put in place by the previous administration, which may not have been that favourable to the local authority. but we can now look forward to full occupancy in the new Maelfa Shopping  Centre, plus over a hundred additional homes.
 
Following the EU referendum result, I feel a need to add my twopennethworth. My advance apologies to those that this may offend, but it is written honestly and I hope with sufficient consideration. Also, apologies to those who have had enough of the matter and want to put it to bed already. The mechanics of disengagement from the EU will now become the territory of the mandarins, the diplomatic corps, and the senior professionals derided by Michael Gove as being “experts”. However, we must consider the implications of the recent referendum not only in and of itself, but also within the wider picture.

The EU referendum was both polarised and polarising. It showed the British people to be all too human. Prone to lachrymose sentimentality. Prone to jingoistic delusions of Empirical grandiosity. And prone to empirical selectivism.

Everyone is a partly rational and partly instinctive human being. And every decision is made partly by the head and partly by the heart / gut. It is the head that provides the rationality, but often only to justify the instinctive reaction that has already been taken. That the referendum was won by the Leave campaign is further justification of this.

Cards on the table time. How did I vote? Well, I spoiled my ballot paper. I did not do so out of intellectual indolence. I did not do so because I had not been persuaded by one or other side that their position was the correct one. I did so because I just didn’t know enough to make a reasoned decision. And because I was not prepared to allow my instinct to take the lead on this matter.

In 1929, the world suffered a serious economic shock as a result of the Wall Street Crash. The cognoscenti of the time argued that this was due to the Globalisation of the world economy. A decade of economic stagnation ensued. People looked for a scapegoat for the hardship that they were suffering. They found it in those that were different to themselves, for whatever reason. They retrenched into their national shells.

They sought solace in similarity. And they allied together against those who were different.
Fast forward to 2008. The world suffered a serious economic shock for similar reasons to that in 1929 – an unsustainable growth in the economy and a loss of consumer confidence. The result of this has been a restriction of the money supply, and the growth of nationalist sentiment. The difference in 2008 to 1929 is that a number of countries, and in particular for this analysis the United Kingdom, had by now developed a comprehensive welfare state. And so access to this formed the fulcrum on which the nascent divisions began to leverage themselves. Who should have access to this? Who is taking advantage of our national generosity of spirit?

There are parallels that can be drawn from the comparison of the post-1929 and post-2008 crashes. Firstly, the ‘bad guys’ are not able to be defined by geographical origin. They are, instead, defined by their creed. In the 1930s, it was the Jews. It is currently the Muslims. However, the ‘bad guys’ who seek entry to the UK are, as a general rule, people who are looking to improve their lives. Yes, some are bad eggs. This is inevitable. But in any demographic, you will find some wonderful people and some really rather unpleasant ones – with the majority in the centre of this just trying to get on with their lives.

In the 1930s and 1940s, many of the ‘bad guys’ ended up setting up businesses which have gone on to employ thousands of people throughout the UK. Andrew Godley, in his 2001 book Jewish Immigrant Entrepreneurship in New York and London 1880-1914, stated of the immigrant Jews that “they were much more likely to become entrepreneurs than their gentile neighbours, with a heavy concentration in the garment industry as well as in retailing, entertainment and real estate. London provided excellent financing opportunities for entrepreneurs”.  This is equally the case with UK-based Muslims today, where they are more likely to hold a Company Directorship than the UK average, and are also more likely to be involved in businesses with three or fewer employees.

Also, on both occasions, the backlash against the immigrant is legitimised by a significant segment of the press. Media hyperbole demonises the incomer. The economic benefit of, some may say requirement for, immigration is over-ridden by a fear of cultural dilution. Subtle pejorative rhetoric is used to plans seeds of uncertainty in the minds of the general populous. And the seeds are left to germinate, liberally watered by the underlying economic uncertainty.

I’ll leave the final words to the Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole. “The disaffected working- class voter in Sunderland, rightly angry about being economically marginalised and politically disenfranchised, will wait in vain for the magical billions that are supposedly going to be repatriated from Brussels to drop from the clear blue skies of a free England.

There is, of course, a tried and trusted way to hold this kind of rickety social coalition together. It is to turn up the volume on nationalism and xenophobia, to deflect the inevitable disappointment anger on to Them.

The English nationalists have just lost their favourite scapegoat, the EU. When their dream turns sour, where will they find another?

Economic inequality is huge throughout Europe. Economic hardship is, equally, perceived to be rife. And there is a growing nationalist sentiment. We need only look at history to know that this does not augur well!
 
On 4 May 2016, the residents of Cardiff Central gave our hardworking and capable Assembly Member Jenny Rathbone the vote of endorsement she so richly deserved. 

Despite a concerted effort from others to spread a sense of fear, we have chosen to stay the course. Nationally, Labour has done better than the media doom-mongers were predicting. Locally, we now have exciting times to look forward to.

Our Labour-run council has put in place a credible plan to redevelop the Maelfa shopping centre. This is long overdue, and includes plans to build over a hundred affordable new homes in the area.

Our central bus station is being redeveloped as part of the continuing regeneration of the City Centre. This will offer better services to the Pentwyn ward, which also includes Llanedeyrn.

We have seen the introduction of the X1 and X11 bus services, which provide additional reasonably priced travel through Cardiff, in addition to receiving assurances from Cardiff Bus that the important route around Circle Way will be maintained.

The Welsh Government has recently provided Cardiff Council with additional money to spend improving road surfaces throughout the Capital, too. I will be working with Jenny to create a report of road surface problems in any part of Llanederyn and Pentwyn. We will then submit this to the Council, in order to make sure that our area fully benefits from these funds. If you have any suggestions, please either call or email and we’ll add them to the report, which we intend to submit by the end of May 2016.

If you have any other matters which you feel you need assistance with, please get in touch. I’d be happy to hear from you, and to help in any way I can.

Finally, I hope that you will join me in welcoming Jenny back as our Assembly Member. I am sure that she will continue to serve us with diligence and distinction for the next five years.
 
What have Trump, Sanders, Farage and Corbyn got in common?

They are outsiders. They aren’t part of the establishment. They are people who speak their mind, no matter how unpalatable some may find their views. And for that reason, they are a refreshing change from the ‘norm’ of politicians who we think will say anything to get into power. And who will then find any reason possible not to change things when they get into power.
So, although they are rather different in their perceived beliefs, they are perceived as having beliefs. Of having principles. Whether these principles are palatable or not is a matter of subjective opinion. And whether they really hold these beliefs is also, one may argue, something of a moot point.

The important lesson that we can learn about any of these ‘outsiders’ can be gleaned, though, by examining the political trajectory of the current President of the United States of America. Barack Obama entered the race to be the Democratic candidate as a rising star, having been a junior Senator for Illinois prior to 2006 when he became something of an unfancied outsider. He formally announced his candidacy in 2007, and due to careful management of his image won the Democratic nomination ahead of the early favourite Hillary Clinton. Chief amongst the reasons for his success was the ability to fundraise substantial amounts to finance his campaign from individual US citizens, rather than relying on the largesse of the established vested interests.


From there, the Obama campaign went from strength to strength. There was a temporary blip in polling when Obama’s Republican rival announced maverick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, but the strength and simplicity of Obama’s message for ‘Hope’ and ‘Change’ won through. The people of the USA had voted for a move away from the status-quo.


When in office, things became somewhat more difficult. Established vested interests tend to be entrenched in the corridors of power, and change by its very nature tends to threaten the establishment. Around that time, the success of Obama’s campaign had attracted the attention of the UK Labour Party. And the model of community organising which had served Obama so well in his early years in Chicago had been transported east across the pond by none less than David Miliband, in his failed bid for the Labour leadership. This resulted in the setting up of Movement for Change, and the involvement of Chicago activist Arnie Graf in helping to train large number of community activists throughout the UK. At its height, Movement for Change boasted that it was able to mobilise an army of 10,000 engaged and enthused people from throughout the UK. It also hosted the largest Conference in Brighton. But its star is now in the wane, as it too has become viewed as being more about self-promotion than about community improvement. And, just recently, it was mooted that it should declare itself a success, and disband.


But, so very easily, the outsider can become the New Establishment. As both Trump and Sanders position themselves as outsiders, Obama has become the Commander in Chief. The price of success is that one will, eventually, fail.


Which answers a different question. Although Trump, Farage, Corbyn and Sanders are all portrayed as outspoken or populist outsiders – if they ever gain the top jobs in their respective countries, they will all leave different legacies. Ripples on the water left by a skipping stone which eventually runs out of momentum and sinks…
 
The sight of a successful new Labour MP, having won in a landslide swing from an incumbent Coalition Party MP, was remarkably rare. I had the privilege of playing a modest part in one of these victories, in a the previously Liberal Democrat stronghold. However Jo Stevens’ victory in Cardiff Central against an MP from the Coalition’s junior partner must be counterpoised against the result in neighbouring Cardiff North. There, the unfancied Conservative candidate Craig Williams increased his party's majority from a mere handful to a more sizeable 1,000-plus votes.

This pattern replicated itself throughout the UK, except in the traditional Labour heartlands of the North East, and to some extent the North West, of England. There was a definite trend to the right in many of the more moderately minded areas. There are two potential inferences that could be drawn from this. Both of which start from the premise that the United Kingdom is undeniably populated by naturally conservative-minded peoples. 

However, that is not to say that they are natural Conservatives!


The first possibility is that the UK dislikes change. We have seen a massive increase in income and wealth disparity throughout my lifetime (I was born mere months after the 1979 election which swept Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives into power). Many of us would be content if our lot were seen to be improving – even if the gap between the ultra-wealthy elite and the rest of the population continues to grow. The illusion of greater personal wealth over-rides the fact that the super-wealthy elites can inflate prices in any marketplace, simply by becoming a participant within it. This is just not factored in.

The second possibility is that the majority of people in the UK are motivated by the fear of those who are perceived to be different. Concentrating on England, Wales and Scotland, there were profoundly nationalist undertones to the recent election. Although these were framed in the ‘Left:Right’ paradigm, there was a lot more than that involved in the subconscious of the electorate. The failed Scottish Referendum vote may have made waves in Scotland, invigorating a new generation of Scottish nationals. It has also done the same in England, in particular, by raising the West Lothian question once more. Throw in to the mix the demagogic brand of nationalism peddled by UKIP, we have a deeply distasteful image of a country comprised of sub-conscious xenophobes.

The truth is that the country is one which values stability. A predictable future is necessary for existing businesses to invest, and new businesses to set up in the UK. Andy Burnham has recently gone on record as saying that entrepreneurs should be valued as highly as doctors and nurses are. He is right to make this statement. Entrepreneurs perform a vital role in ensuring that a country continues to grow, but does so in the right areas and for the right reasons. At risk of echoing the much pilloried ‘predators and producers’ concept espoused by Ed Miliband in 2011, those entrepreneurs who identify and successfully address a social need are entitled to reap the harvest of their invested seed capital.

Labour’s challenge now is to capture the soul of capitalism. It is too simple to continue to perpetuate the myth that the UK can be a socialist utopia. Would that it could be, but communist countries are liberalising their markets in order to respond to e-globalisation. Countries such as Russia, Cuba and China have fallen prey to the irresistible lure of personal betterment. Of aspiration. Of acquisition of material wealth as a means of improving one’s lot.

It is this slack-wire that Ed Miliband was attempting to navigate over. This was not a straightforward position for any Labour Party leader to take. Especially when a large proportion of the mainstream print media are more interested in the subliminal messaging relating to his ‘wonk’-yness, and UKIP were making concerted overtures to the disaffected people who felt that the Labour Party stood no more for them.

So where next for the country – and for the party that I hold so close to my heart? For the UK, a five year programme of government cuts for a country which is still only in nascent recovery. For Labour, a further period of un-necessary internecine feuds between the People’s Front of Judea, and the Judean People’s Front. Labour needs that one stand-out candidate for leader who can command the party’s traditional base whilst appealing to the necessary additional ‘Middle England’ support required to put them back into power. They may well have them within the ranks of their elected members.

For any leader to pander to popular opinion is wrong. Leaders do not follow – they are opinion formers, not opinion reflectors. Therefore Labour did not deserve to win the 2015 election as they failed to set the agenda. If the default position of the UK is conservative, then any other party needs to have a strong, singular vision to capture public opinion. Labour captured this in 1945. They did again in 1997. Between those two was probably the leader with the best political judgment in twentieth century British politics, Harold Wilson. The Labour Party needs to set itself to win the hearts of the people, as it did in 1945, as Wilson did in 1964, and as Blair did in 1997.

The Conservatives are in power for the next five years. However, what were the policies that won them the election? A referendum on membership of the EU. An extra £8bn spent on the NHS each year. And….erm…oh yes, lower taxes! This was an election more about polls than policies, which played in to their hands. Because neither did Labour have a magnetically attractive leader, nor a single coherent vision for the future.

I wonder what will happen to the #Edstone, by the way. Perhaps it will be uncovered, centuries from now. Archaeologists will muse the platitudinal content, and muse to themselves “Who was this mighty Miliband?”.

I AM EDDYMANDIAS, KING OF KINGS. LOOK ON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR!

 
The referendum on Scottish Independence takes place in under a week,. Whatever the eventual result on 18 September 2014, the real result is already known. The United Kingdom is sliding inexorably towards break-up.

The rot set in as the British Empire declined in power and scope, and it could conceivably result in Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, and becoming a member of the Commonwealth in its own right.

This is emblematic of the declining British Empire on the international stage.

It is ironic that the increasingly powerful former British colony, the USA, has historically been more aware of Irish separatism. However, it is this overseas market which has arguably given the Scots the confidence to consider going it alone.

The ‘Head vs. Heart’ argument which has become increasingly repeated over recent weeks is a more subtle one than initially considered. Many have said that the Scots, if their heart ruled their head, would vote for independence. However, if their head ruled their heart, they would seek to remain a key component part of the UK.

However, this argument could be flipped. If Scotland used its head, it could well stand alone as a successful country. However, this would require a sophisticated fiscal policy which attracts high growth, future focussed businesses – for example within the Tech sector. This would require investment in both the education of the Scottish populous, as well as in IT Infrastructure. At that point, the relative geographical weakness of the northernmost country of the British Isles would be obviated, at least to a partial extent.

However, it’s heartbreaking to see the UK slide further towards breakup.

Ireland, the country which has had most secessionist aspirations in the last century or so, will have a significant proportion of its population unhappy that it is Scotland who have forged the opportunity to become an independent state first.

Wales will also look hard in the mirror. However I hope that we realise that we have even less of the requisite financial expertise than do the Scots.

In any event, regardless of the eventual outcome of the 18 September vote in Scotland, the UK  has become an Ever Looser Union.

 
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In recent weeks, energy prices have been increasingly in the public eye. Partly this is due to the prediction of a long, cold winter ahead. Partly, it’s due to the fact that the ‘Big Six’ energy companies have all taken the opportunity to increase their prices in the run up to the cold season. OK, they’ve subsequently taken the opportunity to reduce their prices a little following the Government’s announcement to scale back on some of it’s funding for green measures yesterday, but the general trend – even including the £50-ish off the average dual fuel bill – is a greater-than-inflation price rise.

Energy companies have their own rationales as to why their prices need to rise. They argue that the UK’s distribution infrastructure needs a great deal of investment to keep it up to standard. Additionally, they cite rising wholesale costs which are out of their control, as the UK is no longer self-sufficient for its energy needs. This is as well as the compulsory green levies that make up a (new even smaller) proportion of the total bill.

As an example, British Gas was at the forefront of the deregulation of the energy market back in the 1990s. The end of its monopoly as a nationalised gas supplier led to it aggressively moving into the electricity market, offering ‘dual fuel’ tariffs. Recently, they announced that their dual fuel tariff would increase by 9.2% - well above the rate of wage inflation. They justified this price hike by the using fairly bog-standard excuses, and by saying that their profits were only 4%-6% of their total turnover. It is worth digging a little more into these figures, though, as a further 9%-11% of the total turnover of their gas and electricity business is listed as being “operating costs”, which by necessity include things like senior management salaries. It is also somewhat disingenuous for them to draw distinctions between delivery of gas or electricity to the customers’ premises, but then aggregate clean sustainable energy initiatives and taxes due under the banner “Government obligations and taxes” – a vast majority of this 11%-20% is taxes rather than expenditure on, for example, the laudable Carbon Emission Reduction Target and Community Energy Savings Programme initiatives.

The current government’s response to this approach is to publicly restate that the energy market is competitive and regulated to avoid collusion – although there have been accusations of this in the past. They have also mooted introducing a criminal offence relating to price fixing between the ‘Big Six’, bringing the energy sector in line with the banking sector. The opposition, under Ed Miliband, has taken a more radical and in many ways populist approach, by saying that they would legislate to freeze energy prices if they gained power at the 2015 General Election in order to restructure the energy market.

Although some have accused Mr Miliband of cynical realpolitik in appealing to voters’ basic needs – less expensive heat and power is always going to be difficult to argue against – it is possibly the case that he is gauging the mood of the country, and even subtly influencing it. Since the pledge to freeze energy prices until 2017, an increasing number of people have begun to question the nature of competition in the energy market. The perceived lack of competition, allied with the fact that there is a lack of transparency in the financial affairs of the organisations controlling a vast majority of energy supply, means that the level of public support for renationalising the energy market has grown markedly. After all, many say, wasn’t it that arch-socialist Winston Churchill who presided of the nationalisation of them in the first place?

So, what happens next? Tens of thousands of people have already signed up to the Labour Party’s petition calling on David Cameron’s Coalition government to follow the Labour Party’s lead in acting to freeze energy prices. Although this campaign is unlikely to work directly, it may well assist in bringing additional pressure to bear on the Big Six –smaller and more agile billing companies such as OVO Energy have already moved to distinguish themselves from the traditional oligopoly and may well take further market share from them as a result. The likely medium term result is that the Big Six will seek to position themselves as being responsive to the needs of their clientele – and some may decide to offer PR-friendly price freezes in order to pre-empt the 2015 election. They may even make offers intended to steal market share from their competitors, although this may be a far-fetched dream at present.

In the interim, the Coalition have chosen to concentrate on attempting to cut energy bills by scaling back the Energy Companies’ Obligation’s key efficiency target by 30% - as has been recently reported by the BBC. They promise to reduce each household’s energy bill by an average of £50 per annum, but at what longer term cost? Environmental pundits such as the BBC’s Roger Harrabin have already predicted that the perceived instability in the energy market may well drive up interest rates demanded by lenders providing finance for the £100bn needed to renew the UK's power system. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this would be the next in the line of excuses used by energy firms to justify annual price-hikes. This would give further weight to the growing argument to taking the UK’s energy production and distribution infrastructure back into public ownership.


 
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This morning, my shower stopped working. This was, to put it mildly, a bit of an inconvenience. However as a result I have now made a really good, and hopefully a long term, professional acquaintance.

About six months ago, whilst volunteering for the Personal Support Unit at the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre, I met a client who was under threat of eviction as he had fallen into arrears on his mortgage. He was accompanied by his brother in law, who was there to give him help and support. Unfortunately, they were finding it difficult to navigate forms and court processes in order to stave off the threat of eviction. I helped them to fill out the relevant forms, accompanied them to court and then explained what had happened after the hearing was over. Essentially, the court gave the chap who was at risk of eviction more time to get up to date with his debts to the mortgage company – which I heard today he’d been able to do. Oh, and we had a cuppa while we were working out what needed to happen next. It’s amazing how much work gets done with a good hot cup of tea or coffee to accompany it!

It’s not always a good thing when someone says that they recognise you. However, my quip about it probably being on ‘Crimewatch’ obviously jogged his memory, and the story spilled out. Suffice to say that right now I feel like I’ve done some good in the world, and it’s come full circle as I now have a shower that works , and a massive smile on my face to boot.

If anyone finds themselves cast adrift in the sea of jargon and confusion that is the civil legal process (basically anything except criminal cases!) then get in touch with the Personal Support Unit on (029) 20343685 and the wonderful volunteers there would be happy to assist. I can’t say “we” anymore, as I’m off to work for the Co-operative Legal Services shortly, and so will be unable to continue my voluntary work there for the foreseeable future.


 
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Every few years, each Local Authority in the UK has an election, to determine who is going to represent their Wards – and to administer their Council. These local elections take place on the same date in many different Council areas, and how well or poorly each political party does is used to measure their effectiveness at a national level. Does a party gain or lose a number of councillors nationally? If it picks up seats, it’s doing well. If it loses seats, it’s doing poorly.

This is a slightly peculiar system – not because of the requirement to regularly elect Councillors (we do live in a democracy, after all) but because the vast majority of Councillors elected are a member of one of the main political parties.

To understand why this is a little odd, we need to think a little about what Councils do. Firstly, they deliver local services. These can be broken down into statutory and non-statutory services. Statutory services are those which the Council is required to deliver, as directed by UK statute law. The non-statutory services are therefore discretionary – so Councils could discontinue them should they choose to do so. Statutory spending makes up the bulk of each Council’s budget, Cardiff Council’s is reported to be about 60%, for example. When a priority has been set by a higher power, it’s not like it can then be delivered in a particularly party-political manner. Policy direction and prioritisation takes place at higher level, be that at Westminster, or at a devolved institution (where they have the competence to do this). In the case of Cardiff, this institution would be the Welsh Government.

An additional peculiarity of way that Local Authorities are run is the ‘Leader and Cabinet’ system which most have implemented. In this system, certain elected councillors are allocated lead responsibility for a service area. To continue the example of Cardiff Council there are nine cabinet members plus the Council Leader. The areas of responsibility are such things as Finance & Economic Development, and Education & Lifelong Learning. This system has seen a loss of the direct relationship between Ward Councillors and Council Officers as they now need to go through the Cabinet Member, who has often ‘gone native’ as the Officers have ‘educated’ them. Therefore there is a loss of tension and direct accountability of Council Officers to elected representatives in each Ward.

Another anomaly of the current system is that where independent individuals are elected, there can be an Independent ‘Group’ created. Being a Group confers certain benefits, for example in terms of office space for the Group Leader. In some circumstances, the Independent Group can run a Council (this happened in Carmarthenshire until recently, as well as in Merthyr Tydfil. It is still the case in both Powys and Pembrokeshire). In other circumstances those of a certain political persuasion are likely to hide it from the voters by masquerading as an independent, when in fact they are closely aligned with a certain political party. Many Conservatives in the South Wales Valleys stand on an independent ticket to prevent the ‘anti-Tory’ vote going to their nearest challenger.

In recent years, the UK has seen an increasing number of Cities directly electing mayors, rather than them being drawn from within councillors elected to represent local wards. A number of the successful mayoral candidates have been independents – in Bristol, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and Tower Hamlets they bead political party candidates to be returned to office. This is a step in the direction that US Cities are run – and the renowned 99th Mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia, was notoriously pragmatic. He, who worked closely with F.D.Roosevelt on the ‘New Deal’ even though he was a Republican and FDR was a Democrat, is often quoted as having said that “there is no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets”.

However most Councils remain dominated by party political candidates. This is probably because if a person has a party affiliation, it is worth a number of votes to them. Many voters will decide who to vote for locally based on national issues. However many will then vote for or against national candidates based on their Council’s performance. This seems odd, when the skillsets needed to be a good Councillor are organisation to administer decisions made by more senior institutions, empathy and sound judgment to undertake local casework for ward residents. 


 
Tuesday, 1 October sees the six month anniversary of the introduction of the ‘Bedroom Tax’. In this time, Cardiff Council have seen arrears increase by around half a million pounds. It has also seen many people thrown into domestic turmoil, as they find that they are reclassified as being eligible for funding only for a two bedroom properties, although they currently live in three bedroom ones. It is therefore surely a good thing that Ed Miliband has committed his Labour government to get rid of the Bedroom Tax. However, this government policy is only one element of a considered campaign which targets the most vulnerable in our society.

In recent times, this Tory-led and Lib Dem-supported government has passed a swathe of legislation which targets those least able to defend themselves. Four examples are as follows:

  • The introduction of Universal Credit, allegedly to ‘simplify’ the tax system but in fact reducing the total available to recipients.
  • The creation of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which creates a system where those in financial hardship are more likely to fall into arrears as any unauthorised overdraft fees are likely to be deducted before their rent is paid. 
  • The much-documented, and now quite entrenched, ATOS ‘FIT’ assessments of all those on Incapacity Benefit to determine if they are capable of work are regularly overturned by Appeal Tribunals (in volumes that have meant Tribunals sitting on weekends). 
  • Those seeking to take action through an Employment Tribunal if they think they have been wrongfully or unfairly dismissed now have to pay in order to bring a claim. 

There is no doubt in my mind that these policies, although each of them is unpalatable in isolation, must be viewed together. They are a concerted attack on those who have little voice individually. Furthermore, many charities and ‘Third Party Organisations’ feel that the Lobbying Bill will severely restrict their ability to represent the views of these vulnerable people whenever it is 12 months or fewer from a national election. Given that we tend to have an election pretty much every year, this is a cause for significant concern. So congratulations to Miliband on his statement that the Bedroom Tax will be reversed. But this is merely one step that needs to be taken – and he must come out and explain how his Prime Ministership would empower and enable all Britons to achieve their potential.