YMCA

Plans to transform the iconic Pontypridd YMCA building into a state-of-the-art culture and community hub have been revealed after £4.25m was raised towards the £6m development. The new design will get rid of the beautiful old entrance and replace it with a carbuncle of modernity, but I guess that’s the price of progress.

ymca_artistWhether it’ll be fun to stay there we don’t know yet but the Arts Council of Wales will contribute £2.25m to the project, alongside a £2m Welsh Government pledge through its Vibrant and Viable Places Programme operated through Rhondda Cynon Taf council.

The fairly boring design, has been created by the architect of the Wales Millennium Centre.

The plans include a gym and fitness suite, youth club room, recording studio, reception area, five meeting spaces, two dance studios, digital media suite and office spaces.

A new café will also open on the Taff Street side of the development to compete with existing business owners, along with three shop units to go with all the other empty shop units in town. Although how this shiny, new development will fit in with the stinking dirty food outlets at the other end of the street is unclear as yet.

Kath Davies, director of investment and funding services on behalf of the Arts Council of Wales, said: “We are pleased to have been able to support this ambitious project through our Capital Programme.

muni_200“Ponty YM will significantly contribute to the sustainability and long-term resilience of the area and support the capacity to deliver great art and culture to the local community and beyond.

This is an interesting statement coming so soon after the closure of the Muni Arts Centre and Gallery.

Minister for communities and tackling poverty Lesley Griffiths added: “These exciting plans for Pontypridd YMCA are set to transform this iconic building and regenerate the local area.

“I am very pleased the Welsh Government has been able to support this project with £2m of funding. The centre will act as a creative, social and educational hub at the very heart of the community.”

Yet another interesting statement coming so soon after 100’s of council redundancies in the education sector.

The building opened in September 1910, when working-class townspeople united to bring the YMCA to life.

Councillor Robert Bevan, RCT council’s cabinet member for economic development and planning, said: “The council’s success in securing funding through Vibrant and Viable Places ensures a range of projects will be delivered which will benefit Pontypridd and surrounding communities.

“The council now looks forward to working with partners on this project to develop the provision of arts and cultural arts activities in the area.”

Maybe the council could support the international Welsh Poetry Competition which hails from the town? We have asked but never got a reply.

stones_200Mick Antoniw, Pontypridd AM, added: “This is fantastic news and is another important step in the regeneration of Pontypridd town centre.”

Just like those pavements I guess?

Call us sceptical but when funding is being cut and jobs lost to so many areas already offering great services to the community we wonder who will benefit from this alternative stream of government money?

Some cynical residents of the town have told us that ‘friends’ of certain people are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the coming cash, but we couldn’t possibly comment.

Election Result 2015

Well, the results are now in and as predicted it’s no change for Pontypridd, Wales or Westminster.

Owen Smith, resident Labour donkey with red rosette (no offence Owen) has retained his seat, even though 60%, of those that could be bothered to turn up, voted against Labour, and so it’s business as usual for him on his £67,000 salary plus expenses.

hitlerBut in London, England, it’s an absolute nightmare as Cameron & Osborne (more benefit cuts for the disabled, privatised NHS, bigger nuclear weapons, more money for bankers, fracking, environmental catastrophe, more terrorism, abolition of council services, education cuts for the poor, increase in food banks) get voted back in by a media-brainwashed electorate that seems to think some vague concept of a ‘deficit’ is more important than our children’s future.

And politicians and the media wonder why people don’t vote anymore!


The turnout was around 66% (pretty disgusting when compared to the Scottish referendum). So even with this slim majority there were 34% of the population who ‘didn’t care’ and therefore could have voted against the Tories! So, please make sure, as your life gets worse over the next few years, that you don’t listen to these idiots moaning. Instead just give them a huge slap!

The problem with this election as far as I could see was that the media had already made our minds up for us, constantly telling us that it would either be a hung parliament or the Tories would win. The media instead of thinking about the consequences of such a rash act as re-electing one of the most right-wing parties in the history of British politics focussed on telling us to avoid the Nationalist SNP and the racist UKIP. This resulted in a rather boring election campaign where the main parties became very careful not to do or say anything controversial so they might ‘lose’ an election rather than ‘win’ one.

This morning shows us that 3.5 million clowns have voted for UKIP (most as a protest vote) and the Scots kicked Labour out in favour of independence. Wales seemed to completely lose the plot, but maybe if we watch the Scots doing politics properly we might learn something while we queue at our soup kitchens over the next few years.

So what now? I hate to think what state the country will be in come 2020.

In Wales, 37% of the votes are Labour, which means 63% voted against Labour! Yet they still have a 25-15 seat majority – election reform anyone? Or shall we just accept that they’ll be laughing all the way to their second homes?

But at least we’ve got the precinct now. Horray! Shit.

RCT Council Buy Precinct

RCT Council has bought the former site of Pontypridd’s famous precinct.

precinct_200It is hoped cabinet members will be “in a position to begin considering potential ideas” for the site by the end of the summer.

Now the council will begin talks with other public sector organisations over its future.

Council leader Andrew Morgan said: “As outright owners of the land, the council is now in a far stronger position to drive forward its redevelopment.

“We should be ambitious about the potential opportunities.”

In 2011, the building was demolished as developers Taff Vale Ltd sought to build a 21st-century shopping facility there, with a new 70,000 sq ft Riverside Shopping Centre mooted.

But those plans fell through in September 2012 as the company went into receivership.

“As part of any proposals, I am keen to engage other public sector bodies who deliver services in Pontypridd and also the Welsh Government.

“By thinking outside the box, I believe we can make the most of the opportunity of having outright control of the site.”

Well, a good place to start would be here.

Precinct Development

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is in the process of purchasing the Taff Vale site in Pontypridd.

Thanks to Welsh Government funding announced this week through the Vibrant and Viable Places Programme, the Council is set to purchase the long leasehold interest for the former Taff Vale Precinct.

The key Pontypridd gateway site has been in the hand of receivers for three years and the purchase is intended to kick start redevelopment following a number of unsuccessful regeneration projects.

Assembly officials have confirmed the availability of this funding earlier this week.

County Borough Councillor, Andrew Morgan, Leader of the Council said: “By securing the site the Council will be able to take an active role in the redevelopment of this part of Pontypridd, which is of strategic importance to the town and wider local economy.

“If successful in the process, a whole new range of opportunities will be opened for the Council and potential partners to take forward not only in terms of this site, but the wider regeneration of Pontypridd.

The question is will the backward thinkers of the council just think more ‘shops’ that we don’t need or want, or will they listen to the people who have, for 20-30 years, been asking for the town to be developed in a ‘better’ / more eco-friendly and sustainable way to all the other carbon-copy, bland, boring town centres we have near us?

Why don’t you the people vote here.

Friendly Valleys?

Do you live on the friendliest street in the Valleys?

Wales Online have teamed up with The Big Lunch to find the place that boasts the happiest postcode, the most helpful neighbours and the most cheerful community. To mark the launch and let people across Wales know they can register for a free resource pack to hold their own Big Lunch in their community, we’re searching for a street that can show the country what being a good neighbour is all about.

The winning street will receive a plaque to proudly display, and the accolade of being its valleys friendliest street.

Perhaps you don’t think of your neighbours as neighbours, you think of them as friends, and the majority of your birthday cards every year are hand-delivered.

Does everybody feed each other’s cats and water their plants when someone goes on holiday?

Your street may have raised money on behalf of a neighbour who needed it, or perhaps your neighbours were there for you during a difficult time.

Whether you live on a terrific terraced street, a caring cul-de-sac or a dream development, this is your chance to show your pride in where you live and generate some positive news about your community. So why not get in touch and share your story?

Now, in its seventh year, The Big Lunch is partnered by Halifax and ASDA. In 2014, a massive 4.83 million people took part in Big Lunches across the UK, including more than 120,000 in Wales.

Anyone who is thinking of holding a Big Lunch on Sunday, June 7, can register online to receive a free pack containing everything you need to get started.

To request a pack or for more information visit www.thebiglunch.com

How to Enter

If you think your neighbourhood deserves to win the friendliest street in the Valleys competition, simply finish this sentence in no more than 200 words: “My street is the friendliest street in the (include as appropriate) Cynon Valley; Rhondda; in and around Pontypridd; in and around Merthyr; Rhymney Valley; Bridgend County; Blaenau Gwent because…”

Please post your entries to Jessica Flynn, Media Wales, 6 Park Street, Cardiff, CF10 1XR, or email cynon.valley.leader@mediawales.co.uk; rhondda.leader@mediawales.co.uk; pontypridd.observer@mediawales.co.uk; merthyr.express@mediawales.co.uk; rhymney.valley.express@mediawales.co.uk; glamorgan.gazette@mediawales.co.uk or gwent.gazette@mediawales.co.uk.

Please use the correct area in the email subject line. Don’t forget to send us your name, address, contact telephone number and email address.

Deadline for entries is 5pm on April 20, 2015.

Obese Valleys

Two-thirds of people in some parts of South Wales are classed as overweight or obese, new figures have revealed.

The Rhondda Valleys were the worst performer in the battle against the bulge with 65.8% of people having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher.

Across all of Wales nearly 60% of people were overweight or obese, with 22% of those deemed obese.

New figures, which break down results from last year’s Wales Health Survey, also revealed the areas where people were most likely to smoke, drink and take no exercise.

Throughout Wales 43.2% of people said they drank more than the guidelines and 26.8% said they were binge drinkers.

Happy St David’s Day

Saint David’s Day is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on 1 March each year. The first day of March was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David. Tradition holds that he died on that day in 569. The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century but despite many high-profile campaigns to make the day a National holiday (Bank holiday) in Wales and the UK both Labour and Tory governments refused to listen to the will of the people.

Cross-party support resulted in the National Assembly for Wales voting unanimously to make Saint David’s Day a public holiday in 2000. A poll conducted for Saint David’s Day in 2006 found that 87% of people in Wales wanted it to be a bank holiday, with 65% prepared to sacrifice a different bank holiday to ensure this. The author of this website has sent three petitions to the office of the British Prime Minister and each time got the standard letter saying ‘No’.

Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron have all turned us down. Maybe they were scared the UK would become more productive with more bank holidays to make their slave workers happier? Maybe they were afraid of rising patriotism and are considering an ISIS Appeasement Day instead? Or maybe they just don’t know where Wales is? You decide.

In the meantime our suggestion is that all Welsh workers phone in sick on 1st March (or nearest working day to it) until the Welsh government (at least) listens to us.

Every year parades are held to commemorate Saint David. The largest is held in Cardiff, and is a mixture of folklore and military tattoo. Celebrations often include concerts, a parade and a food festival.

VOTE HERE.

Welsh Poetry Competition 2015

It’s that time of year again folks. When writers from around the globe focus on Pontypridd and the international Welsh Poetry Competition. We have a great judge in acclaimed writer, Sally Spedding, and are still offering great cash prizes. For more information and to download an entry form visit the website:

www.welshpoetry.co.uk

And this year it’s even more interesting because the ‘Cardiff International Poetry Competition’, run by Literature Wales and funded by the arts council, will not take place in 2015. The competition has in the past received generous financial support from Cardiff Council, however, in light of increased pressures on Council budgets, we have been informed that this funding is no longer available.

Not sure how many millions of pounds Literature Wales gets to promote literature in Wales and the valleys (not that we’ve noticed much of it being spent here of course), but hopefully their loss will be our gain.

Maybe all those thousands of entrants will now try our competition, based here in Ponty, instead!

Photo Exhibition

spillers300_200Local photographer Dave Lewis will be exhibiting some of his images at Gartholwg Lifelong Learning Centre from Monday, 26/01/2015 – Friday 13/02/2015.

The centre has a large exhibition space so why not pop along and see the photographs close up. All images are framed and can be bought direct from the gallery.

Lifelong Learning Centre
St. Illtyd’s Road
Church Village
Pontypridd
CF38 1RQ
Telephone: 01443 219589

See more.

Poster – click here.

Council Tax Rise

Rhondda Cynon Taff residents could be hit with a 3.8% rise in council tax next year as the council cuts jobs for frontline staff while giving senior managers huge pay rises. Doesn’t seem fair does it?

Wales Online says that Wales’ third-largest local authority will consider the tax increase as part of its efforts to slash £70m from its budget by 2017/18.

RCT council will also think about cutting marketing, tourism, special education, adult education, sports development, highways maintenance and finance to save a meagre £8m next year.

Andrew Morgan, the council leader, said “While the amount raised through council tax does contribute to the funding we have available to support the delivery of our services, it only equates to around 20% of total funding available, with the bulk made up of government grant funding.”

Cabinet will meet again in February to recommended a budget strategy for consideration by council and then we’ll be into major campaigning for the general election – should be a fun time in RCT, a time full of lies, hypocrisy, unfairness and downright, dirty, double-dealing.

And the result? Well, being an optimist I’d say we can expect less jobs for the residents of RCT, longer dole queues, huge cuts to local services, rising crime, obscene golden handshakes for certain senior staff at RCT, less money in the local economy, higher taxes, higher NHS bills and businesses closing.

Free Speech

At ‘pontytown‘ we believe in free speech. Well, we try anyway.

In the past, newspapers, councillors, solicitors, Lords, MPs, business owners, deluded internet trolls and even other websites have tried to silence us. We’re still here though. We’re here because we care about our town and don’t like seeing selfish idiots ruining it. We’re now into our 17th year. Have we achieved anything? Difficult to say, but at least we do say.

Over the next few months a general election campaign will be fought, won and lost. Afterwards we’ll probably have another 17 years of material… Will we carry on? Will we bother? Who knows? That is up to you – the local people. If you want this site, it’s ‘mental / yet entertaining & informative’ message board to continue then you need to start using it. You need to get involved. To encourage your friends to get involved. To say what you’re thinking. Tell the world what you think. If you don’t then most likely we’ll just fade away.

All we ask is you remember the Scottish vote and remember the broken promises. Then think about the last 100 years of what ‘London’ has given (like charity) to Wales and its people. Don’t ask yourself if you are happy with being second class citizens, ‘cos you’re not – ‘they’ don’t give you a second thought.

If you do the same thing – the same thing will happen. If you want things to change – change what you do.

Happy New Year Taxpayers

Taxpayers in RCT have had to pay a legal bill of more than £354,000 because officials failed to do things properly. Yet, the idiots who costs us this money are still in jobs!

The local authority paid out £144,000 for the legal costs of nursery campaigners and then a further £97,500 to Rhydyfelin Library Support Group for their legal costs.

RCT council said its own external legal bill came to £113,199, meaning the council’s total expenditure for all legal costs was £354,699.

This means that nearly £355,000 has been spent on lawyers, instead of providing frontline services to the public. It is a very expensive mistake to make, especially when so many staff have already lost their jobs, been made redundant or are about to lose their jobs due to lack of money.

A statement from RCT council said: “The council has since reviewed its decision-making processes going forward.”

RCT council must shave £30m from its budget in 2014/15, and has estimated it must save shed a further £40m by 2017/18. ‘Good luck?’

Champagne Druidic Christmas

Started in 2013 by members of www.pontytown.co.uk, the annual Christmas Day ‘morning drinkies at the druid stones’ kicks off again at 10:00am. Massive crowds are once again expected to converge on the Rocking Stones, Pontypridd Common, for what some have called the new Glastonbury. Well, it’s muddy anyway.

With hungover children, literature salesmen, air-conditioning engineers and sex gods (no sign of retiring yet) in attendance a large and visible police presence is anticipated. And with dog walkers from all over the country, including all fans of www.doggieblog.co.uk, greeting each other with the traditional sniff of the goolies it promises to be a great occasion. A quick sip of Tesco’s finest (or Aldi’s strongest – whatever your preference), colourful umbrellas twirling (weather permitting), a quick chat through groggy eyes and it’s back home to the Turkey murdering (or lone Onion in Davis’s case).

For the stalwarts the party continues at the Llanover Arms at 1:00pm and everyone is welcome.

Merry Christmas Ponty People.

Happy Yuletide

Many cultures have winter festivals that are in fact celebrations of light. The Pagan holiday called Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 21 in the northern hemisphere (below the equator, the winter solstice falls around June 21). On that day (or close to it), an amazing thing happens in the sky. The earth’s axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun reaches at its greatest distance from the equatorial plane. As a festival of the Sun, the most important part of any Yule celebration is light.

In the Northern hemisphere, the winter solstice has been celebrated for millenia. The Norse peoples viewed it as a time for much feasting and merrymaking. Traditional customs such as the Yule log and the decorated tree can all be traced back to Norse origins.

The Celts of the British Isles celebrated midwinter as well. According to the writings of Pliny the Elder, this is the time of year in which Druid priests sacrificed a white bull and gathered mistletoe in celebration.

Few cultures knew how to party like the Romans. Saturnalia was a festival of general merrymaking and debauchery held around the time of the winter solstice. This week-long party was held in honour of the god Saturn, and involved sacrifices, gift-giving and a lot of feasting.

Four thousand years ago, the Ancient Egyptians took the time to celebrate the daily rebirth of Ra, the god of the Sun. As their culture flourished and spread throughout Mesopotamia, other civilizations decided to get in on the sun-welcoming action. They found that things went really well… until the weather got cooler, and crops began to die. Each year, this cycle of birth, death and rebirth took place, and they began to realize that every year after a period of cold and darkness, the Sun did indeed return.

Winter festivals were also common in Greece and Rome, as well as in the British Isles. When a new religion called Christianity popped up, the new hierarchy had trouble converting the Pagans, and as such, folks didn’t want to give up their old holidays. Christian churches were built on old Pagan worship sites, and Pagan symbols were incorporated into the symbolism of Christianity. Within a few centuries, the Christians had everyone worshipping a new holiday celebrated on December 25.

 

Ponty Bands Success

Two of Ponty’s best new bands, Climbing Trees and Peasants King have been successful in their bid for a bursary from the Launchpad fund, created as part of the BBC Wales and Arts Council of Wales’ Horizons scheme to develop new contemporary music in Wales.

Both bands will receive up to £2,000 each to help support them in developing their music. Climbing Trees will use their funds for recording, mastering and mixing at Mwnci studios in Carmarthen, while Peasants King, who this week released a festive cover version of Slade’s classic Merry Christmas Everybody, will mix their debut album with acclaimed producer Greg Haver.

A panel of music experts from BBC Radio Wales, Arts Council of Wales, Clwb Ifor Bachand others choose the recipients.

Launchpad fund applications opened in September to Wales-based artists and bands writing, producing and performing original contemporary popular music.

For more information about the Launchpad fund go to the Horizons website – www.bbc.co.uk/horizons

Stay Anonymous Online

With plenty of talk in the media (and in local crime thrillers) these last few years about the criminal spying undertaken by the USA and UK governments on the world’s citizens many feel the NSA and GCHQ have gone too far. What we look at online, what sites we browse and what stuff we buy is our business not the snoopers.

Google, Facebook, Apple, BT etc. (the list is very long) all give our data to the Americans and British intelligence services. Why? You might ask. Well, there is only one reason and it’s not terrorism – it’s so they can build up a picture of us all so they know what we’ll do before we do it and also what we’ll buy or more importantly are likely to buy in the future. They then send us the adverts targeted to us personally to sell their crap.

The two tiered web is already with us, adverts are targeted at us on a daily basis, via phones, websites, internet searches and even this website (via Google Ads we use to try to get clicks to pay for it!). Everywhere we turn we see fonts, logos and branding, well OK, maybe not that many in Taff Street these days, but you get the picture.

Anyway, in order to stop the government snoopers, the Russian mafia, ID theft gangs, viruses etc. and do our bit for free speech and freedom of choice here are a few links for people who care about their own civil liberties:

DuckDuckGo – search engine that doesn’t track you

Zone Alarm – free firewall

Last Pass – password management

VPN Book – virtual private network

Tor – the ultimate tool – The Tor Project

This list is by no means complete but should be great for starters. But what about email I hear you cry? Well, there are programs that hide your details, like HushMail etc. but many of these companies have been shut down by the NSA.

What about Facebook? Well, you can delete your account of course but guess what? It’s still there! You need to go to Facebook.com/deactivate.php – follow the instructions and wait 2 weeks!

And don’t start me on Cookies 2:0. It’s a brave new world.

Christmas Shopping

As many of us choose to do our shopping online each year why not have a look at some of the shops, businesses and links we promote on ‘Ponty Town’.

christmas_presentsWe have our business page, we have the links and banners that run down the right-hand side of each page, we have our ‘Support Wales‘ Amazon shop and we also have selected items on each post or news story.

If you’re looking for ideas and want to avoid the crowds, car parking and petrol costs then why not shop with us from the comfort of your own home!

Christmas Craft Fayre

The Positively Ponty Christmas Craft Fayre will be held at Clwb Y Bont on Saturday, 6th December 2014. Times: 11:00am-4:00pm.

Over 20 local craft makers selling unique handmade gifts. Something for everyone. Local writer & photographer Dave Lewis will be there with a selection of his books and photo cards for sale.

Santa may also make an appearance after 12:00pm so why not bring the kids too!

Hot spicy parsnip soup and the bar open too! Easily the best craft fayre in the valleys this Christmas.

General Election

Yes, I know, Christmas hasn’t happened yet, nor the New Year hangover and the credit card bill, but, very soon, whether we like it or not, in May there will be a General Election. Yep, just after Wales win the 6 Nations 😉 I wonder which political party will claim that as their victory?

OK, so why spoil things now? We’ll have plenty of time in the Spring to get frustrated, annoyed and disillusioned with the political class putting the boot into our oppressed Welsh nation, just like they have for the last hundred years or more. Well, I have a one-word answer – Scotland.

No-one could have escaped the hysteria caused by the independence debate in Scotland. Sixteen year olds voting, the terrifying prospect of North Sea Oil not being there to pay for America’s wars, a proposed pension fund for all people, social equality, high paid jobs, greater tourism, European currencies, ditch the Queen (and her fascist regime) and more whisky – oh, if only all polling days could be this exciting!

Well,  they say a week is a long time in politics and so it proved to be last time around here in Pontypridd. Local ‘Marmite’ hero, and many people’s favourite to become an MP, Mike Powell, would have walked it. Should have walked it. But, we hadn’t banked on Clegg the Tory (Clegg joined the Cambridge University Conservative Association between 1986 and 1987), the posh, public school educated Deputy PM with Russian aristocracy in his family tree. Yep, he spoiled it for everyone who’d put their misguided trust in him and his party.

Those Lying Democrats!  Breaking their promises on tuition fees amongst other things. And so, with one small step for his power-hungry ego (into a government coalition) here is one party that no-one will ever vote for again. Ah, but will we? Surely, ‘Ponty’ is about as far removed from Westminster dodgy deals as Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are from the real world. Although to be fair to ‘not Red enough’ Ed he did at least go to a comprehensive school in London.

OK, so back to ‘Ponty’. Kim Howells, artist, former Trotskyite and ‘massive majority’ former Ponty MP had Thatcher to fight for much of his career and so we all loved him (or tolerated him) as ‘one of our boys’ at least. And then came Owen Smith, our current MP, born in Morecambe, England, son of Dai Smith, Head of the Arts Council in Wales. Mr Smith, former BBC radio producer and worker in the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals industry is also a keen Ponty rugby fan (can’t be bad)…

But…

His majority was slashed last election to 2785. So what you might say? Well, the consensus of opinion on the streets, pubs and rugby club is this: if Mike Powell ditches the unelectable ‘Lib Dem tag’ and stands as an Independent he’ll win! No ifs, no buts! Shit! Really?

Well, normally this would be a two horse race, Labour donkey with red rosette versus local, outspoken underdog but, at the time of writing, the UK (and I include Wales in this) has been gripped by some sort of political fever that almost rivals that of the Scottish election. Yep, you guessed it – UKIP. The party that would raise the tax threshold to £13,500 for us ordinaries but would also allow fracking, more nuclear power stations and a lowering of the minimum wage! The jury is out on privatising the NHS (although we know the Tories will do this if voted in again).

Here’s just a few UKIP policies, just in case people were seriously thinking of voting for them:

  • We would review all legislation and regulations from the EU and remove those which hamper British prosperity and competitiveness, i.e. lower the minimum wage
  • Inheritance tax will be abolished – tax cut for rich
  • We will introduce a 35p income tax rate between £42,285 and £55,000, whereupon the 40p rate becomes payable – tax cut for the rich
  • UKIP supports the development of shale gas – earthquakes R Us?

Tell us who you’ll vote for?

So in conclusion, and assuming Plaid Cymru don’t get their act together I can see three nags heading down the final furlong. Question is do you vote for the horse or the jockey? Think about it.

Valley Lines To Be Electrified

Plans are afoot to electrify the train network in south Wales. The current franchise holder Arriva Trains Wales receive a subsidy of around £180m a year from the Welsh Government. The next franchise operator will continue to receive a subsidy, but electric trains are more efficient to run and have great passenger capacity, so will generate more revenues for whichever private company wins the franchise.

As part of the deal with the UK Government the Welsh Government will have devolved responsibility for the franchise. It currently has a co-signatory deal with the Department for Transport. The next franchise will be from 2018.

However, Labour have mooted the possibility of not-for-profit or even stated owned train operators. There is potential for the Welsh Government to run the franchise through an arm’s length body as is the case with Cardiff Airport.

It could also delay that decision on the next franchise by offering an extension to Arriva Trains Wales when its current deal ends in 2018, but with a lower subsidy than currently provided, but the bottom line is that we can’t expect any electrified services until the early 2020s.

Electrified times will reduce times from stations in the Valleys to ensure that services such as Merthyr to Cardiff, currently over an hour, can be done in less than 50 minutes, whereas a non-stop service from Merthyr to Cardiff would only take around 30 minutes.

The Welsh Government could also ensure provision of more trains for rugby fans after international rugby games in Cardiff.

Muni Deal Called In

As part of cost-cutting plans Labour-controlled RCT council decided to close Pontypridd’s Muni Arts Centre (even though it was losing the least money when compared to the Park & Dare and the Coliseum) and a private group setup by Pontypridd’s Labour MP Owen Smith, calling itself ‘The Muni Working Group’, which includes representatives from Pontypridd Town Council, Cylch Cymreig, Artis Community, Coalfields Regeneration and the YMCA, put in an application to run the centre.

These plans, however, have been criticised by Councillor Mike Powell, who has asked for them to be called in for further scrutiny by the council.

He said: “After the recent publication of the cabinet’s decision to give the Muni lease to a not for profit organisation, a private applicant contacted me to look at his application.

“When I saw the detail that was in that private application, I then compared it with the detail in the confidential report that went to the cabinet.

“I was astounded by the lack of financial information and proposed job creation that was not given to members.

“I could not believe they were asked to decide on such an important decision based on what I didn’t see included in the report.

“The private applicant indicated that there would be substantial sums being invested and income generated rather than the alternative that the council wish to proceed with.

“Therefore, in view of the information I have seen, I asked for it to be called in for further scrutiny and to look at what reasoning the officers had for not providing the in depth detail that this decision for the people of Pontypridd and RCT really needs to ensure it is sustainable for more than a couple of years.”

More here.

RCT Cut Senior Managers At Last!

Fifteen senior managers are to be given huge redundancy payouts while those remaining will receive pay rises!

Rhondda Cynon Taf council will scrap the roles of 15 senior staff but some posts will be re-graded.

As a result of the decision, the new management arrangements will come into place this month and save approx. £1m.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, leader of RCT Council, said: “Further savings across other levels of management will be considered in the coming months.”

He added: “It is totally right and proper that where officers take on additional responsibilities for new service areas and functions that their grade level reflects this.”

Although when staff lower down the pay scales take on extra work they never seem to get pay rises.

The leader also stated that: “Our levels of chief officer remuneration are not over generous and in many circumstances are below those offered by neighbouring authorities of similar size. No one can level criticism that we are not prudent in this respect.”

Yet, senior management can still rake in over £60,000 a year, some having got their posts without interview. A decision that is still in dire need of scrutiny.

RCT To Charge For Sports Fields

As part of its drive to save millions of pounds Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has proposed charging clubs for the use of the council’s 26 bowling greens, 15 cricket grounds, 38 rugby fields and 67 football pitches, in Phase Three of cuts to services.

It estimates a 34-week season would cost a football or rugby club’s first team £600 to use a council field, with their second team paying £450 and third and subsequent teams £300. Even junior teams will have to pay £100 per season!

So, what will clubs do? The answer seems obvious – some will pay, some will run fewer teams, some will fold completely. One thing is for certain though, with less people playing sport in the borough, the result will be more unhealthy kids and adults. This can only increase the burden on an already over-stretched and under-resourced NHS.

For clubs with a first team, a second team, youth side and a number of age groups it could mean a yearly bill running into thousands of pounds. Some clubs just won’t be able to afford these costs.

What do you think? Tell us here.

Redundancy Costs

RCT have paid out £7,722,000 to 369 employees, in severance payments to staff leaving the council in 2013-14 – a figure up from £3,052,000 in 2012-13. Opposition leaders say this could run into millions more if more jobs are lost.

The news comes in the same week that cabinet members met to consider the possibility of a merger with Merthyr Tydfil council, which would result in yet more job losses.

Cllr. Jarman of Plaid Cymru said “The bill for severance is already rising because of the cuts that are being made as a result of the austerity agenda and this won’t change next year even if we have a change of government at UK level.

“History tells us there will be fewer jobs if reorganisation goes ahead.”

According to the council’s Statement of Accounts 2013-14, 369 employees left the authority with 18 of those due to compulsory contract terminations.

In 2013-14, six employees received severance payments between £100,001 and £150,000, a further six received payments between £80,001 and £100,000, and 13 employees received payments of between £60,001 and £80,000.

Earlier this year, the Williams Commission said the number of Welsh councils should be cut and First Minister Carwyn Jones supports replacing Wales’ current 22 authorities with just 12.