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Cardiff County Hall
In the forthcoming weeks and months Cardiff Council will begin to come under attack from - in particular - the Liberal Democrat group for it's decision to freeze Council Tax. 

The decision was due to a Labour party 'pre-election' pledge - that Council Tax would not be increased in the first year of the new Council. As soon as their budget is announced, I have no doubt that there will be some howls of protest that they are not protecting the jobs of their workforce. However they will argue that there is a wider issue which cannot (and should not) be overlooked.

As elected representatives, all our Councillors - from whatever party - have a responsibility to do the right thing for their constituents. This therefore includes all residents of the City, not solely those who work for the Council. We should not be too surprised if it is the Liberal Democrats who decide to lead the assault, but they should look to their own actions before directing their ire elsewhere. It is often said that attack is the best form of defence. Given their parlous state in the polls at present, it would be hugely surprising if they do not come forward with some form of outwardly plausible suggestion for a moderate increase to Council Tax which could safeguard a particular 'non-essential' service.

And if the Labour Council acquiesced to this, then they'd be pilloried between now and the next election for being the party of tax increases!

Let's now look at the record of the Lib Dems and the Conservatives at Westminster. In addition to their constant talk of austerity (of which we've only had a small proportion of that which is planned), they have proposed debilitating cuts which impact on those people most at risk in our society. This is described as a simplification of the benefits system. This simplification, however, disguises cuts which will impact disproportionately on those who are most in need. Those, for example, who will benefit from the additional £22m funding which has been allocated by the Welsh Government to help those facing a Council Tax support cut.

So is it better that Cardiff council acts decisively, and that we residents know the amount that we have to find for the coming year? Alternatively, would it be better to renege on their key manifesto pledge and increase council tax to make up any budgetary shortfall or to invest further in non-essential services? It's a precarious decision to make - but surely it was made when the initial pledge was given?

 
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In January 2012, a number of my fellow Penylan residents and signed a petition, which we handed to the Welsh Government with the support if our local AM, Jenny Rathbone. It called for the end of the 'NotSpot' in Penylan, where many were unable to get Internet access except at very slow speeds - useless for those many professional people attempting to work from home, for example. Shortly thereafter, we were promised by BT that we would all have "superfast broadband" to our homes by 2012. 

I recently received a letter from Jenny, who has now been told by BT that, due to not knowing the conditions in their Roath underground ducts, the project will now be delayed by three months. This is because, so they explain, they won't know the state of these ducts until they start to excavate them. 

This is an interesting comment. It's also blindingly obvious, in a Donald Rumsfeld "unknown unknowns" sense. Of course you can't see into an enclosed underground space. However, that doesn't explain why the excavation work wasn't started earlier. 

It was clever slight of hand when the ConDem coalition government started to refer to their success in having reduced the deficit by a quarter - rather than the debt. Similar sounding words, but whereas one means reducing the national debt, the other just means increasing the debt by less than they would have been. If it were me, that would equate to the difference between reducing my overdraft and personal loans and borrowing more money at a slower rate than I had previously being.

However, that's not the point of this post. What BT cleverly did was to promise, back in early 2012, that everyone in Penylan would have access to "superfast fibre optic broadband" by the end of 2012. The inference, that everyone who wanted to be upgraded by the end of 2012 would have this option.

I contacted BT towards the end of last year, and was reassured that the fibre optic capability would be installed to the Penylan cabinets by the end of 2012. Now, this is not quite the same thing - but if the cabling reached the cabinets, then all that they then needed to do was run the cables to the houses that wanted upgrading.

It's now 2013, and there is mixed news. Firstly, Ann Beynon (BT Director Wales) says that there is unlikely to be more than a further three months of delay before installing fibre optic cables to the Penylan box. However, my concern is that this is not what we were originally promised that the installation would be to properties by the end of 2012. Oh, the noble art of double-speak! I hope that there will be no further need for it's use on this matter......because I know that there are several other parts of Cardiff which also don't have the best broadband speeds (areas in Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn spring to mind, and I'm sure that there are more).