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Back at the beginning of the last century, a two day conference organised by the Trades Union Congress formed the Labour Party, with the objective of gaining representation in Parliament for the working man.

It is therefore a truism that the links between the Trade Union movement and the Labour movement run deep. There are strong trends in both Unionism and Labourism (for want of a better adjective) which are deeply entrenched. Both movements are essentially romantic in nature, and tend to harken back to halcyon days of yore (in the case of the Labour movement) or to the days of widespread exploitation of the working man (in the case of the Union movement).

In recent decades, most memorably with the abolition of ‘Clause IV’ of the Labour Party constitution as Tony Blair attempted to make the Party more palatable to the growing aspirant middle-classes, these links have been weakened. However, there is still a strong link between the party, and Trade Union members. Notably, each member of a Trade Union currently needs to opt out of paying an automatic affiliation fee to the Labour Party.

Ed Miliband has taken a brave step in stating that he wants to see this situation reversed – so that each Trade Union member has to make a conscious decision to opt in to affiliating with his Party. This is a step which has been compared unfavourably with his predecessor-but-one as party leader, who was seen to be proactive in moving away from the Labour Party’s commitment to nationalised industries. However, this is too simplistic an analysis.

Blair’s decision to take on the organised might of the Unions was a calculated risk. It was still a risk however, as the power that the Unions wielded was then considerable. In achieving the abolition of Clause IV, Blair was able to prove to the swing voters that the Labour Party was unlikely to be financially imprudent. That, along with a commitment to match the spending plans of the Conservative government under John Major, was instrumental in winning ‘New Labour’ power in 1997. But although there was a risk to Blair that he may have been overthrown by an internal, Union-led putsch, he was being blown along his course by a fair, following wind.

In much the same way, the current Labour leader is merely tapping into a trend of greater community activism which already exists. Yes, it is possible to point to the selection of a Labour Party candidate in Falkirk as being a major motivator for the timing of the announcement. However, if Blair was assisted by a strong following wind then Miliband is assisted by a favourable current. It’s not as visible as the trend towards private ownership, but the rise of community organisation and individual activism is taking hold within the Labour movement through organisations such as Movement for Change. In this case, therefore, the trend is less visible but no less present. Rather than following the wind, they are following a current.

Miliband has had a fairly torrid time since his being chosen to lead the Labour Party. He has been pilloried as being ‘Red Ed’ – only able to win the leadership election through the support of Unions. He has been accused of lacking personality, of being too consensual, and of lacking the killer instinct of Blair. These criticisms are, in the most part, unwarranted. Granted he was less popular then his elder brother with party membership during the election campaign. However, his ability to mobilise support from a variety of sources demonstrated his ability in the art of ‘realpolitik’. Furthermore, he has shown his steel in standing against his elder brother and winning the leadership of the party against the odds.

As for the final of these criticisms, that he is too consensual, this is possibly the easiest to understand. Miliband took control of a divided Labour Party, in the aftermath of the much-publicised Blair/Brown conflict. The Economist, normally right-leaning and highly critical of woolly left-wingers, believes that Miliband has opportunity to effect real change but goes on to say that he has no ‘tribal backing’. Although the criticism is that he is being too consensual, this was undoubtedly necessary after fallout from divisive Blair/Brown situation.

Does this mean that Miliband’s strategy is to acquiesce to the agenda that is being set by the governing coalition? To an extent, the answer to this question has to be “yes”. Certainly, Labour has not opposed many of the government’s policies from a position of strength. It has instead adopted an approach which is to pick specific government policies in isolation and to force ‘U-Turns’. Remember the ‘Granny Tax’, the ‘Pasty Tax’, and most recently the ‘Bedroom Tax’ campaigns. However, whilst the Labour Party does not have an alternative policy agenda of their own, they are held hostage to fortune by the coalition. Labour are awful at promoting the good work that was done in social investment between 1997 and 2010. This is why the concept of austerity has been set – because the Conservatives, in particular, have adeptly controlled the media agenda.

The next twenty two months are going to be fascinating. Assuming that the Fixed Term Parliament Act is not repealed, the next General Election will not be until the first week of May 2015. By this time, the Labour Party will need to have developed alternative policies of its own rather than sniping at the Coalition policy agenda from the sidelines.

This policy agenda will be developed using the broad church of activist organisations such as the Labour Supporters Network, and the Movement for Change. The latter is an organisation set up by the elder Miliband during his bid for the leadership of the Labour Party, and it seems somewhat poetic that it is now being used by his younger brother to engage with more of the ‘grass roots’.

So, possibly, we will see the  ‘#betterpolitics’ that the Labour Party publicity machine has been tweeting about after all, although they should be wary of social media such as Twitter taking precedence over personal ‘face to face’ contact. New media is growing area, and is a fine way of reaching out to the often disaffected and disenfranchised younger generations. However it has shortcomings. For example, it is not possible to become a Registered Labour Supporter if you don’t have an email account and access to a regular internet connection. This is potentially disenfranchising to the most vulnerable, who could well benefit most from inclusion and engagement with the political process. For this reason personal relationships need to remain paramount.


 
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LASPO will hit those in greatest need
On 1 April this year, the Legal Aid budget was cut quite substantially. This was due to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act coming into force. These cuts to Legal Aid will have a serious impact on the access to justice, and to the rule of law in the UK. 

The Civil Justice Council's 2011 report 'Access to Justice for Litigants in Person (or Self-Representing Litigants)' states that access to justice is central to the rule of law. It then opines that the proposed reduction in publicly funded legal aid, and cost of privately-paid legal services, are likely to lead to a substantial increase in those whose access to justice is unaided by lawyers. The result, they say: "will be no access to justice for some, and compromised access to justice for others."

However for those who have lost the ability to claim Legal Aid, it is not as simple as just losing the chance of being supported through a complex system by having a lawyer paid for to support you. As with many other of the current government's policies, it becomes more pernicious when viewed 'in the round'. In addition to cuts to the Legal Aid budget, the Courts and Tribunals service has also been hit. In the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre, for example, there is one public counter which is open between 10am and 2pm. This time last year, there were two public counters open between 10am and 4pm. This 66% reduction is in mirrors a trend which is apparent throughout England and Wales.  

Interestingly, the Law Gazette reported that this reduction in face-to-face contact between court staff and the general public could impact negatively on the efficiency of the legal system, as District Judges ended up doing the work that was previously picked up by court staff. The Conservative-led government will argue that this won't happen, as the 'Big Society' is going to pick up where the state left off. There are indeed some organisations which assist individuals who are all-at-sea in the legal system. In Cardiff, these organisations include the excellent Riverside Advice Centre and Cardiff Law Centre. However, given that there are financial pressures on all Local Authorities, as a result of increasingly stringent financial settlements from central government, Councils are also cutting funding. Both the Riverside Advice Centre and Cardiff Law Centre have had a reduction in funding from Cardiff Council for 2013/14, and it is highly unlikely that this will be a one-off. Furthermore, the Cardiff office of the Citizens Advice Bureau has closed, citing a lack of resources as the main reason.

There is a possible partial solution to this problem, though. It is born out of the boom in law students within the UK - all seeking to find the 'je ne sais quoi' with which to discriminate themselves from their peers. That, along with the tradition of 'pro bono' activity which exists within the legal profession, could provide something of a sticking plaster for this open wound. For example the Personal Support Unit (a charity offering non-legal support to those in the Civil Justice system, which has gone from strength to strength in recent years) could enter into a joint working arrangement with the Bar Pro Bono Unit in order to provide a free regional support network for those otherwise disenfranchised from the legal system. The PSU has a regional network, but is not able to provide legal advice. The BPBU can give legal advice and representation in court, but is London-centric. Therefore, a joint venture may work well - with recently qualified lawyers volunteering in cities such as Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool alongside the more procedurally-focused PSU.

It's not a perfect solution - far from it - but  to do nothing would be to deny access to justice for all. To deny access to justice for all is to undermine the domestic rule of law.

 
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New build on the old UWIC site
The large amount of residential building being undertaken at the Newport Road end of Colchester Avenue is cause for some concern to many local residents. A large number of these live on the more established Howardian Estate.

To this point, the Council have ignored the needs of this estate in terms of the infrastructure that they need to live comfortably. Small things, like the fact that the Estate does not have a postbox (the nearest one is on Colchester Avenue) seem almost petty to comment upon. However, when one reconciles this with the fact that a good proportion of the properties on the Estate are managed by a social housing provider (Wales & West Housing Association), and that there are a number of elderly and mobility impaired people living there, this becomes more  problematic.

However, the postbox is not the point of this comment. Nor is the fact that the houses have drives but no grit-box for the inevitable cold snaps, which make the residents unable to get their cars off their private property (unless they've had the foresight, and have the spare funds, to lay in some rock salt for the purpose).

The point that I'd like to raise relates to the mass development going on at the bottom of Colchester Avenue. There are over 300 properties which have been developed on the site of what was the Industrial Estate. Planning consent has also been granted for the redevelopment of the former UWIC site, for the site between Sainsbury's and Ffordd Nowell, and - a few years previously - to develop Doe Close opposite the Howardian Estate. In addition, there is work ongoing on what was the Welch's dairy site, on Newport Road, which will bring a Morrison's supermarket to the area. 

The challenge is to the resilience of the infrastructure in the area. The council has invested, using funds from the Doe Close developer's 'Section 106' contributions, in traffic lights at the junction of Hammond Way and Colchester Avenue. This has meant that residents of the Howardian Estate are more able to get out of the estate in the morning. 

However, the phasing of these traffic lights is nowhere near right yet - and there are often tailbacks from that junction a long way back towards Newport Road. Likewise, the lack of sufficient public transport between Ffordd Nowell and, for example, Cardiff High school mean that many people are forced to use their cars for unnecessary journeys.

For these reasons, I have manage to persuade the local Labour Party to conduct a 'listening exercise' in the area this Saturday. I'll be out with them in Ffordd Nowell, Scholar's Gate, Doe Close and the Howardian Estate on the morning of Saturday, 30 March. However, I'd be interested in any thoughts that people have on development of the area - local residents in particular - regardless of whether we happen to knock on your door when you're in.

 
Today is Budget Day 2013. A vast majority of the political press is focused on the rather uncomfortable economic situation which prevails in the UK, as in much of the rest of the Western world. However, I think that we may be taking our eye off the ball a little when it comes to a far greater long-term challenge for the UK - and for that matter for the world. That challenge is to live within our means in terms of energy consumption. For that reason, I have decided to write to my MP today in order to ask her to support an amendment to the Energy Bill which is currently laid before Parliament. It is reproduced below:
Dear Jenny Willott,

I'm writing to you in connection with an amendment to  the Energy Bill tabled by two of your Parliamentary colleagues, Tim Yeo and Barry Gardiner. The amendment seeks to add a decarbonisation target for electricity to the Bill.

Energy sustainability is a huge challenge for the world to meet. It can only be achieved if we all do our bit. I have spent a reasonably large sum of money (around £5,000) to add solar panels to my property. In so doing, I have taken advantage of the guaranteed 'Feed In Tariff' rates which mean that the solar array should have paid for itself within the next ten years or so. 

That's all very well for me - as I can afford to spend this money investing in solar technology. However, unfortunately, many are not in the same situation that I am in.

I understand that you have a role within the Government, as a Whip. However, I would ask you to examine your conscience and to vote in the interests of your constituents - and of the UK. Voting against this amendment is not simply a matter of playing 'petty politics' within your increasingly fractured Coalition Government. It's voting against your party's official policy of implementing a 2030 decarbonisation target. And it's voting against the world's best interests.

It is all to easy to say that one person's voice does not make a difference. However, we must remember that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And by voting in favour of the Yeo/Gardiner amendment we can start on that journey. 

Yours sincerely,

Michael Fogg

 
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The most recent development in the Eurozone financial crisis is possibly the most concerning yet for the UK. 

It may seem somewhat counter-logical to deduce that the decision made by the EU and the IMF to seek a levy of up to 10% on all deposits in Cypriot banks could have a marked impact on the UK - but it could well do so. 

In addition, the decision signposts the direction of EU-wide fiscal policy in years to come. This is particularly interesting, coming as it does shortly after the suggestion by Paul Tucker, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, to consider further reducing UK interest rates from their current historic low of 0.5%. He suggested setting negative interest rates, and therefore charging banks for the privilege of 'depositing' funds with them. This would then encourage banks to lend, thereby stimulating the economy and injecting some much-needed additional liquidity into the economy. In particular, the private 'SME' sector.

UK Budget Day 2013 is this Wednesday, and there is no doubt that the Chancellor will continue to hold firm his commitment to 'Austerity' - regardless of the socio-economic impact of the policy. There is also little doubt that George Osborne will focus on deficit reduction as being of primary importance. Politically, he's too tied to this objective to escape it - unless he performs an escape act of Houdini-like skill. Even for a man of his undoubted political nouse, this is highly unlikely.
 
The Cypriot situation may well provide Osborne with the necessary backdrop with which to frame some particularly unpalatable policy announcements. He is already expected to cut the top rate of income tax for domestic taxpayers, and this is being contrasted unfavourably with the so-called 'Bedroom Tax'. Oddly, the latter is not a tax at all - but a reduction in benefits given to those people living in properties which are under-occupied. It is a rare occasion where the usually highly effective Conservative media machine has been outflanked by their opposition counterparts. Although it does feed in to an internet meme which has included such poorly thought out policies as the 'Granny Tax', and the 'Pasty Tax', so perhaps the governing Coalition may have taken its eye off the presentation ball in recent months. 

I would not go as far as to say that this will result in a direct tax on savers' deposits in the UK. Not yet, at any rate. However, there are more subtle similarities between the Cypriot situation and the UK than we may initially realise. By implementing a 'one-off' levy on the deposits of savers, the EU and IMF can be seen to have betrayed those depositors who felt that their money was guaranteed, up to 100,000 EURO, under the EU Deposit Guarantee Scheme. The UK is in the fortunate position of not being a part of the Eurozone, but that does not mean that we are entirely insulated from it. Many policy decisions take in the Eurozone are similar to those taken in the UK - we also have a Deposit Guarantee Scheme of around 100,000 EURO equivalent, for example. If that guarantee is not sacrosanct in the EU, who is to say that it is in the UK? In an attempt to stimulate further spending to re-inflate the economy and prevent a 'Triple Dip' recession, an  deposit tax coulbwell be the next step towards encouraging us to invest our money, rather than saving it for a rainy day.

 
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A gated lane just off Newport Road
A number of years ago, a resident of Pen-y-lan Terrace contacted Cardiff Council to ask if the lane system between Pen-y-lan Road and Llwyn-y-Grant Road could be gated. Although not affected directly himself, a number of his neighbours - elderly people living alone - had been concerned by various activities. Some were as 'innocent' as groups of youths using the lanes as a cut-through. Other activities, however, include men driving down the lane in a pick-up truck with one stood on the back of the truck looking over into people's gardens. It doesn't take much to work out what they were looking for, either! 

In some other parts of Cardiff, a system of alley-gating has already been put in place. It's not cheap to do, and it can be very difficult to make sure that local residents use the gates properly. However, it has been responsible for a reduction in opportunist crime of the type that we have increasingly seen in Penylan. An academic study into the effects of alley-gating in Oldham was published in the European Journal of Criminology in 2009. This followed on from a similar study in 2007, results of which suggested that a similar scheme in Liverpool had impacted positively on the perception of crime and anti-social behaviour on an ongoing basis.

In Cardiff, over seventy lanes have now been gated, using powers under the Highways Act 1980. The Cardiff Council Strategy for Alley Gating Schemes includes consultation with local residents, local Councillors, emergency services (amongst others) and an assessment of any legal orders that are required. The current council seem to be following the same vein as the last, with an undertaking being given that the programme will not be affected by recently announced budget cuts.

The programme includes alleygating schemes throughout Cardiff, which have collected political support from local AMs and MPs. There is a strong and organised opposition to alley gating by those organisations supportive of maintaining public access to public spaces and open countryside. This has resulted in certain Cardiff based schemes being opposed, notably one in the east of Cardiff. There has also been criticism of some of the gates used, with one resident of Cowbridge Road East claiming to have found a design flaw which allowed several of the gates in his area to be opened without a key. In another area of central Cardiff, however, the local green group have used an alley gating scheme to transform the previously shabby Fox Lane into a far more welcoming - and lower crime - area. 

From my perspective, I find the idea of stopping up historic rights of way something of an infringement of civil liberties. However, the facts speak for themselves. There is both a reduction in crime and the perception of crime, and as such is can - in certain situations - be justified. This is not to say that alley gating should be used as a universal panacea, because 'Silver Bullet' policies are something of an urban myth. Where the majority of those proximate with a valid reason for accessing the lane are in favour of the scheme, it stands to reason that alley gating should be implemented. In Penylan, there seems the be some strong opinion in favour of gating around Penylan Terrace as well as further down the hill around Kimberley Road. It would be interesting to know what proportion of residents are in favour, though.

 
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Ed Miliband's recent announcement that the Labour Party intend to table an Opposition Day Motion in support of the Lib Dem's 'Mansion Tax' proposal will not have been well received in Lib Dem HQ. However, when looked into in more detail, it appears to be a case of high politics taking precedence over the proposal of a well thought out economic policy. 

The Labour Party have said that the 'Mansion Tax' - basically a tax on property valued at over £2 million - would pay for the re-introduction of the 10p tax rate which was introduced and subsequently scrapped by New Labour when they were in power. Exactly what  form the tax would take seems to be up for debate, although reports have been made of a 1% levy on the value of each property valued at over £2m. 

There are two distinct considerations at play here. Firstly, whether the concept of a 'Mansion Tax' is a sensible one. Secondly, whether the way that Miliband Jr. has introduced the Labour version of the concept has been well handled. 

So - is the 'Mansion Tax' an economic runner? Superficially, it seems so - for those in society who have been hard working and fortunate enough to own a high value property to contribute more to the Exchequer seems fair. It would certainly be less onerous to implement than the much-maligned 'Bedroom Tax', as there are far fewer potential properties to value for the 'Mansion Tax' proposal. However, the criticism is that any tax which is based on the asset value rather than the income of an individual can lead to them being unable to  afford the levy owed. This, in turn, could impact disproportionately on those who for whatever reason live in an expensive home but live on a subsistence income. An example of this could be an elderly person living on her old age pension, in the family home which has become far more valuable due to other properties in the neighbourhood being sold for increasing values. Is it just that this person should have to sell and move to a smaller property if she does not have family to assist her in making the (annual, one would assume) tax payments? Certainly, with the population of the UK increasing, there is greater population pressure and as such one could make a case for this. However it is not an entirely palatable situation.

In terms of the Labour announcement, this again could be seen to be well handled. Superficially so, at least. The threat to the Coalition is predominantly symbolic, as an Opposition Day Motion has only ever been won once - that being on settlement rights for Gurkha veterans. However, the challenge to the Coalition is both real and fairly immediate, in that if the Government do not give Parliamentary time to the ODM Labour have said that they will table an amendment to the Finance Bill for the next budget. The political fallout for the embattled Lib Dems could be quite substantial, however, as it has been designed to drive a wedge between them and their senior coalition partners. Whatever the form of the vote on the 'Mansion Tax', it is likely to widen the rift between the Tories and Lib Dems - and this will prove problematic for the Lib Dem whips in particular.

 
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Following the introduction of mandatory licensing of all landlords in Scotland, a second English Council has announced an intention to follow their lead. The London Borough of Newham has already introduced a mandatory landlord licensing scheme. Now Liverpool City Council is about to commence a consultation period with a view to introducing it in the city early next year. In addition to this, the Welsh Government has stated that it would like to follow suit.

There is no doubt that the varying quality of private landlords is a complex issue. As such, there are unlikely to be any 'silver bullet' solutions to it. Some landlords are excellent, and take their responsibilities to their tenants seriously. Others, conversely, are content to sit back and take rent from their tenants and will do the least possible in return for this. It is estimated that there are around one million landlords in the UK, of which a vast majority only own one property and nearly all own fewer than five properties. Well, that's according to the Private Landlords Survey 2010, anyway. 

However, it is too simplistic to paint a picture of private landlords as being the cause of all problems when the landlord/tenant relationship breaks down. In areas of the country where the property is less expensive (and therefore where rental prices are lower) it is not unusual for a landlord to find that the damage done to a property is far in excess of that which the tenant's bond is able to cover. In fact, in areas such as the South Wales valleys, it is quite easy to envisage a situation where a tenant absconds at the end of a six month tenancy with two months of rent arrears and leaving behind a property which needs extensive remedial work. As the average rental price of around £400 per month, this means that the tenant would only need to have caused £1,600 of damage (including 'normal wear and tear' of any property let, which is acceptable under UK law) for the landlord to be left out of pocket. And that's not taking into account the court expenses which may be incurred from seeking to recoup the rent owed.

Furthermore, the landlord/tenant relationship is often further muddied by the existence of a lettings agent (often unregulated), whose primary objective is to maximise their profits. Basically, by doing is little as possible for as much remuneration as possible. Now, I'm far from an anti-capitalist, but surely there is a need to have a system of regulation in this area of the market to prevent any unscrupulous agencies from playing fast and loose with people's lives? 

As a landlord myself, I am quite happy to sign up to a voluntary code of conduct. For that matter, I'm also willing to adhere to minimum quality standards. These could include an undertaking to respond to tenant concerns within a timely manner (obviously, the more urgent the concern the more rapidly it needs addressing). It could also include a minimum standard of cleanliness, and an undertaking to join a registered body (for example the National Landlord's Association). However this does not, in my opinion, address the underlying concern. That is dealing with those private landlords who are not going to adhere to voluntary standards, as they are more concerned with maximizing their yield rather than discharging their responsibilities. 

This is only going to be solved by making it more attractive to these people to meet their responsibilities rather than not to do so. Whereas the concept of compulsory licensing provides some benefits, it will be a case of managing those who are already quite good landlords, rather than dealing with those who are the problem ones. Furthermore, it could result in a number of the less desirable landlords  'going underground', thereby creating a system similar to that which occurred during early twentieth century prohibition in the USA. The only long-term solution is to persuade landlords to improve by hitting us where it most hurts us - through our pockets!

 
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I've just been interviewed for the 'We Are Cardiff' documentary film. I've been thinking for a while about what it is that makes a place unique, and the best answer that I can come up with is that it's a combination of its environment, history, and future direction.

Take Cardiff, for example. Cardiff is a product of it's location - on the mouth of the river Taff, where it enters the Severn Estuary. It grew throughout the Industrial Revolution from a small settlement to become one of the world's key export centres. Cardiff Docks exploded in size following the completion of the Glamorganshire Canal in 1794, allowing the connection of Merthyr to Cardiff. It was further expanded when it came under competition from newer docks in Penarth and Barry. This later expansion comprised the opening of the Roath Dock in 1887 and the Queen Victoria Dock in 1907. The docks were a driving force in making Cardiff into the place it is today, bringing huge numbers of people from different cultures to the settlement, and creating 'Tiger Bay'.

In terms of history, it became a City in 1907 following mass expansion of the population during the Industrial Revolution, and was subsequently made the Capital City of Wales in 1955. Between these dates the City had acquired it's first and only FA Cup (Cardiff City beating Arsenal in 1927, 20 years after renaming themselves as Cardiff City and 17 years after moving into Ninian Park). Throughout the ninteenth and twentieth century the City became a regional manufacturing centre, synonymous with shipbuilding and iron and steel making.  Later in the century, the emphasis shifted towards the tertiary economy, with a reduction in manufacturing output being made up for by the increase in employment by service sector organisations. There has also been a noticeable increase in academic employment. Cardiff now has three Universities and a number of private 'Sixth Form' colleges.

This economic shift is potentially challenging, though. Whereas with manufacturing there is a fairly strict limit to the number of potential competitors, when dealing with the service sector there are few such limits. All that a company such as Admiral Insurance needs to carry out its business is excellent communications infrastructure, an educated workforce, and a favourable business climate. So far, Cardiff is proving to be fairly resilient, but will come under increasing competition from countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China as well as from the rest of the English speaking world. Cardiff is now competing with not just Newport, but also Newcastle, New York and New Delhi.

There are certainly opportunities here, as well as the more obvious threats. If the City is able to differentiate itself as being a first-class place to live, then there is a far greater chance that the entrepreneurs and job-creators of the future will choose to invest in the City-region of Cardiff, rather than anywhere else. However, if the City does not invest in both communications and transport infrastructure, then it may well begin to stagnate. 

 
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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?