1. Road to nowhere

    A tragedy at a main Welsh road near Cardiff has captured headlines but an accident black spot on the same road in north Wales has been almost ignored, it has emerged.

    Several people have been killed at the junction of the A470 and A494 near Dolgellau.

    Five crashes have happened near the spot in as many weeks.

    However, the crashes come in the wake of significant investment in the A470 by the Welsh government in the past year.

    Now commentators have asked whether that money was  spent effectively.

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    So many accidents have occurred, at the A470 turn off for Bala, the Welsh government have installed a temporary three-way traffic signal system and imposed a 50mph speed limit.

    Yet millions of pounds have been spent upgrading the A470 and nearby roads to the south, in a scheme called the A470 Maes yr Helmau to Cross Foxes Improvement.

    Earlier in 2014 the Dolgellau bypass, which follows on from this road scheme, was also resurfaced, and the junction road markings changed.

    But there had been calls for a more radical overhaul of the black-spot junction.

    http://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=33177&p=720814

    In the latest accident at the scene last week, a teenage girl was taken to hospital.

    Yet it came as huge attention was given to an accident when a 36 year old woman died on the A470 outside Caerphilly near Cardiff, and the road had to be closed for four hours.

    Meanwhile hundreds of people have now signed an online petition calling on the Welsh government to build a roundabout on the A470 at the junction with the A494 in north Wales, and try to halt the accident record there.

    John Raghoobar, a town councillor for Dolgellau, said: "I think the traffic lights are better than nothing but let’s just hope something is done quickly."

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    A tragic motorcycle accident at the junction has highlighted the situation.

    But £11.3 million was spent improving the road a few miles further south, between Maes-yr-Helmau and the Cross Foxes on the A470.

    At the start of work, Welsh government minister Carl Sergeant said:  ”Transport is vital to our lives and getting our approach to transport right is critical for sustained economic growth in Wales.”

    In another upgrade further north, a bridge was constructed for bats at a cost of more than £650,000 on the bypass of Porthmadog.

    The ‘bat bridge’ was designed to save the rare lesser horseshoe bat from being killed by vehicles.

    While innovative, it was considered an experimental measure that had only been trialled a few times before.

    The bridge consists of a row of lights either side of the road, mounted at low level which illuminate the carriageway, but ensuring the sky above is dark.

    Early in the project, some drivers said the unusual lights were dazzling.

    The Welsh government have stressed they had to follow European legislation to protect the local wildlife, but the amount of money spent on the bat bridge faced huge criticism.

    Local resident Aled Griffith said:  "If you think about the amount of money that’s being spent on one bridge just to protect bats, I’m not against bats, but what about the children and old people and the people who want to walk along that road who used to walk there before the bypass was opened."

    Yet the multi-million A470 upgrade has been honoured in awards ceremonies.

    It was shortlisted for 'Awards in Sustainability' by The Institute of Civil Engineering and Construction Excellence Wales.

    http://www.gwynedd.gov.uk/gwy_doc.asp?doc=31845&Language=1&p=1&c=1

    But as the accident toll continues to mount elsewhere on the A470, the road seems unlikely to win any awards for safety.

     
  2. Picture perfect

    Today we introduce a new feature to Wales Eye - the cartoonist Mumph.

    For 12 years Mumph worked at the Western Mail and has also provided cartoons for the BBC, ITV, as well as UK newspapers including The Times, The Independent, The Mirror and Punch.

    We were so overwhelmed by the response to yesterday’s article revealing that Welsh government minister Edwina Hart had refused live broadcast interviews for more than three years (see ), we thought we would kick off coverage by Mumph with his own take on the story.

    image

    Last week a huge row broke out over Twitter after the first minister, Carwyn Jones, denounced Arriva Trains Wales because rail announcements were not bi-lingual.

    Sarcastically Mr Jones suggested the border might have moved (see ).

    Mumph offers his own view of the controversy.

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    Mumph will entertain readers of Wales Eye with his own particular comment on the key events of the week.

     
  3. Silent order

    A leading Welsh government minister has refused to accept live broadcast interviews where she may face unknown questions, for more than three years, Wales Eye can reveal.

    Even an interview she gave to BBC Wales a day after a contentious announcement on the £1 billion M4 relief road, was a ‘pre-rec’, or interview transmitted on the evening news but carefully recorded beforehand.

    Now there are fears Edwina Hart could be ‘door-stepped’ by news crews, where a camera team arrives unannounced and she is forced to answer more detailed questions about her policies.

    The controversy came to a head when Ms Hart would not answer broadcast questions about the disputed decision to build the road, on the day of the announcement.

    She made the statement late in the afternoon last Wednesday.

    image

    The timing of this major announcement has been questioned, as well as the decision itself.

    Ms Hart is now facing a serious rebellion among the Welsh government’s own assembly members, and four have now publicly stated they disagree with the news.

    The minister’s general public profile was hugely diminished after an internal investigation of the BBC contributors’ data base, revealed that the economy minister has not made herself available for a live interview since May 2011. 

    "It is ridiculous that Edwina Hart almost never does interviews," one BBC journalist told Wales Eye.

    "We wanted to ask her questions live on air, about spending huge amounts of taxpayers money and criticism from within her own party, but she wouldn’t.

    "It’s unbelievably difficult to get hold of her.”

    Another broadcast journalist said:  "There is a big issue of accountability here.

    "I wouldn’t be surprised if news teams decide to ‘door step’ her."

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    The Brynglas tunnels, a bottle-neck for the M4 now, would be avoided by the new relief road.

    But after Ms Hart made the controversial announcement opting for the expensive ‘black route’, she has faced a storm of criticism and calls for more media interviews.

    The transport expert who researched the cheaper ‘blue route’ around Newport, Professor Stuart Cole, said:  "The economic assessment does not appear to give evidence that the black route will create investment and jobs.

    "The decision has been made but previous decisions have been reversed both to build and to cancel this particular investment.

    "It is now time to build but given the financial and traffic forecast implications has the right decision been made?"

    image

    Ms Hart has held a succession of senior Welsh government posts ever since devolution fifteen years ago but has rarely granted interviews in any of them.

    She was for three years from 2000, minister for finance and local government, and was appointed minister for business enterprise following the assembly election in 2011.

    Since March last year she has been minister for the economy and transport.

    In that time Ms Hart has been responsible for multi million pound budgets.

    Serious questions have been raised about her handling of the media as criticism grows over the timing of the new road announcement.

    It came a few days before release of a highly-critical report by the assembly’s cross-party environment committee, which is due to be published tomorrow.

    In leaked drafts it was revealed the committee had "grave concerns".

    Three possible routes for the new M4 were considered, but the fourth cheaper and quicker one - the ‘blue route’ - was also offered.

    This would have involved upgrading the Southern Distributor Road and would have been far less expensive.

    But in her pre-rec interview, Ms Hart robustly defended her actions, saying government had to ensure it "gets on with governing" and it was up to ministers to "make the decision".

    Yet opposition parties are unimpressed, and now Plaid Cymru have withdrawn from talks with Welsh ministers over the budget in protest.

    Labour only have 30 of the 60 seats in the assembly and need the support of opposition parties to pass their budget.

    In November 2012 Plaid Cymru backed Labour so the budget could be passed, but faced heavy criticism after details of the negotiations emerged.

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    The then finance spokesperson and former Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones was appointed head of a science park on Anglesey which was created as part of the deal (see  ).

    Labour must now turn to the Liberal Democrats for help in passing their annual budget.

    But reports within the party confirm they too may soon announce abandoning any negotiations with Labour on the budget.

    Furthermore Lib Dem economy spokesperson Eluned Parrot has been strident in her condemenation of the decision to choose the black route for the relief road.

    Her comments leave the party little room for manoeeuvre.

    She said:  This decision is a huge mistake, and completely flies in the face of the environmental and economic issues that have been raised by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and many other organisations throughout this process.

    "The consultation process appears to have been nothing more than a sham.

    "The Minister’s claim that there were no reasons why the ‘black route’ could not be adopted completely ignores evidence".

    After the announcement to adopt the black route, four assembly members from the Welsh government’s own party - Labour’s Mick Antoniw, Julie Morgan, Julie James and Jenny Rathbone - criticised the decision to choose it on environmental grounds and because of the timing.

    image

    In the past leading UK government ministers were used to fielding questions from the media.

    But, it appears, not so in Wales.

    Five years ago Ms Hart stood in Labour’s Welsh leadership election.

    As she launched her manifesto she said:  "When my mother was born, women in Wales had never had the vote.

    "Now, less than a century later, I am a candidate to be the first woman to lead our party in Wales."

    Perhaps Ms Hart should be told in the 21st century dealing with the media is a vital part of the job.

     
  4. 00:30 21st Jul 2014

    Notes: 1

    Tags: comment

    Heated debates

    By Daran Hill of Positif Politics

    Certain summer traditions are as regular as they are surprising.

    The shock political moment is one of them.

    A decade ago, former first minister, Rhodri Morgan, used the final day of the summer session to announce the abolition of the Welsh Development Agency, skills body ELWA, and the Wales Tourist Board.

    A year later he set out his lengthy timetable for withdrawal from public life and, unlike Tony Blair, managed to stick to his.

    Rhodri Glyn Thomas’s cigar moment also happened as the assembly doors were closing.

    image

    This year the arrival of a Secretary of State for Wales with a beard, the sacking of Welsh environment minister Alun Davies, and the reinstatement of four conservatives to their own front bench in the assembly, have all provided a colourful backdrop to the hectic last few days.

    But the biggest shock of the week was the decision by the Welsh government minister, Edwina Hart, to commission the one billion pound M4 relief road.

    She can have expected strong headlines in doing so, because the statement was both surprising in tone and scale.

    What will not have been so pleasing is the way those headlines have been framed.

    Because by sneaking out the announcement at four O’clock on Wednesday afternoon she made a tactical error.

    image

    The news of the M4 relief road to the south of Newport came only weeks after the first minister Carwyn Jones, had condemned a Plaid Cymru debate on the floor of the assembly for occurring before a committee report was published into the M4.

    It was, he said, premature to do so.

    Yet that same prematurity coloured Ms Hart’s announcement on Wednesday, knowing that the committee report was due the following week.

    (see Wales Eye tomorrow for details of how the Welsh government minister handles the media).

    A stand-off is now in place with Labour members of the sustainability committee as unhappy as the other parties over the disrespect to their work which – surprise, surprise – has now been leaked and shown to be negative about the M4 relief road option chosen by the minister.

    image

    Plaid Cymru have, furthermore, pulled out of budget-round talks with Labour, over the way this public money has been announced and spent; and the Liberal Democrats are said to be inches away from doing the same.

    The irony, of course, is that in the space of a year the great consensus over prioritising and approving the M4 relief road has now been broken.

    The other usual thing for summer in Welsh politics as that the rows and issues that end the session in July, rarely resurface with the same passion when the institution reconvenes in September.

    Because of the budget-round, and the committee report, the tradition of ‘forgive and forget’ will not be maintained this year.

    Daran Hill is director of Positif Politics http://www.positifgroup.co.uk

     
  5. On the buses

    The controversial bus service from Cardiff to the airport is to be run by a different company, Wales Eye can reveal.

    First Cymru have lost a re-tendering process and soon the service will be run by New Adventure Travel (NAT).

    The bus route - which receives a subsidy of hundreds of thousands of pounds - was launched last summer by Edwina Hart, the Welsh business minister.

    Wales Eye first disclosed in December how First Cymru paid some drivers less than the living wage the Welsh government themselves endorse (see - ).

    image

    Now the company have told workers they will no longer run the T9 airport service.

    Last month it emerged that First Cymru had ‘de-registered’ the service as the contract reached the end of an agreed term.

    A company spokesperson said it was "normal procedure".

    At the launch of the T9 service Ms Hart had said:  “The Welsh Government’s vision for the development of Cardiff Airport includes making it easier for passengers to travel to and from the airport using public transport.”

    But the service was condemned as a ‘ghost bus’ by critics after it was revealed that so few people used it, the taxpayers’ subsidy was significant.

    Welsh Conservative leader and regional assembly member for south Wales central, Andrew RT Davies, said the T9 service had been “running empty for months”.

    “Communities deserve better”, he said.

    The service - which runs from Cardiff bus station to the airport - had been criticised by opposition figures for its low passenger numbers, with a report saying it had carried on average 2,778 passengers a week since its launch.

    It had an estimated annual cost of just under half a million pounds (£470,000).

    image

    But the bus service was an important part of the plan by the Welsh government to boost customers at the airport after it had been brought into public ownership for £52 million.

    Huge embarrassment was caused to policy-makers after Wales Eye revealed that some drivers were paid less than the living wage the Welsh government supported.

    First Cymru officially complained about the report saying that drivers received many staff perks including free uniforms.

    Some drivers on the shuttle service between Cardiff and the nearby airport were last year paid just £7.50 an hour. 

    Yet the Welsh government formally recognised the Living Wage which was set 15p an hour higher.

    image

    First Cymru said:  We are concerned to read reports in some Welsh media alleging that First Cymru staff are poorly paid.

    "These assertions are incorrect and misleading."

    Among the benefits staff received from First Cymru were the following:  

    Free uniforms 

    · Free and ongoing training and continuous professional development 

    · Programmes to support individual’s progress their career through the business”

    But now it seems an individual’s progress through the business will have to be pursued outside the company’s airport service.

     

     
  6. Tough business

    Angry lecturers at a Welsh university have attacked the "aggressive" approach to staff of senior officials at the institution’s management school, it has emerged.

    Workers at the school in Swansea stand accused of having a "hippy dippy" attitude.

    But the dean, Nigel Piercy, said major changes would continue, and staff should not hold their breaths expecting officials to step down.

    He added that, in fact on reflection, he would be happy to see them hold their breaths.

    image

    But at Swansea university one staff member told Wales Eye:  "It is an appalling way to treat people who are working extremely hard.

    "Everyone supports change and knows it has to come but there is no consultation whatsoever."

    The controversy follows Nigel Piercy’s appointment to the school soon after his son became a top management official.

    Nigel was named dean of the school in May 2013.

    image

    His son Niall is pictured here second from right, outside Cardiff metropolitan university management school where he was professor of marketing and operations management.

    Professor Niall Piercy was appointed deputy dean for operations in the Swansea management school early last year.

    Friction there arose soon afterwards, when he warned that any academic without four papers deemed three-star standard for research excellence, would be moved into teaching-only roles.

    The policy was rescinded, but controversy continued over increased teaching loads for some staff.

    Further bad feeling was created in March when Professor Piercy circulated a spreadsheet of student satisfaction scores for the first term of 2013-14.

    Course modules with a low score, it was announced, would be placed in “special measures”.

    image

    A new building is under construction for the school and is due to be completed in September of next year.

    But the anger of academics is growing, and not directed at the facilities, but at the management style.

    Even though the names of some course directors at the school were omitted in the controversial survey of student satisfaction, twenty two academics submitted a formal grievance, arguing that identities were common knowledge and that the spreadsheet undermined their “professional credibility”.

    But another contested survey followed and, Professor Piercy’s father Nigel said some staff had given "hippy dippy comments".

    He added, that they had enjoyed a   "lovely cosy lifestyle doing whatever they wanted for years".

    He said:  "I’m sorry.

    "This is not a commune.

    "This is a managed institution pursuing goals that are closely aligned with the university’s.

    "It is not a rest home for refugees from the 1960s, with their ponytails and tie-dyed T-shirts.

    "Live with it.

    "Some wags call for the removal of some or all of the school’s top management team.

    "Yes, well don’t hold your breath.

    "Or actually, do."

    image

    A spokesperson for Swansea university said:  "The university is committed to improving the teaching and learning of students at the School of Management as part of our ambition to become one of the world’s top 200 universities.

    "All changes within the school seek to underpin this, and we hope that staff will support us."

    But Swansea University’s management school is no stranger to controversy.

    Ten years ago an investigation was undertaken by the leading barrister, Philip Havers, into the closure of five academic departments at the university.

    Critics believed the closures were linked to the opening of what was then the new management school.

    Almost 300 members of the university signed a petition against the closures demanding answers about whether there was a connection with the opening of the school.

    The academics were also concerned about a much-publicised recruitment drive for foreign students.

    Serious questions were raised too about the relationship between the vice-chancellor, Richard Davies, and the man appointed then as head of the management school, Patrick O’Farrell.

    image

    At the vice-chancellor’s wedding Professor O’Farrell was best man, and they worked together in what was described as a "tightly-knit research group" at the former University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST) which was based in Cardiff, writing research papers together.

    This was not declared at the time of his appointment.

    The university says the relationship had not been close since 1985 and that at the time of the appointment there was no "financial, close familial, a sexual/romantic or close association of any other kind".

    These issues would have prevented Professor Davies from chairing the committee which selected Professor O’Farrell for the post at Swansea’s management school.

    Meanwhile the Piercys remain a controversial pair.

    Oddly Professor Niall Piercy does not mention on his Linkedin profile, the year he spent at Cardiff metropolitan university before he moved to Swansea.

    He does, however, state how he spent a month as a visiting professor at the culverhouse college of commerce and business administration with Alabama university in America.

    But as Niall’s father might say:  "get over it".

     

     
  7. The endgame

    The four Welsh rugby regions are planning to go it alone next season after failing to strike a deal with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), Wales Eye can reveal.

    We have learned that plans have been drawn up for an independent existence, free from financial dependency on the governing body.

    It would mean the regions attempting to gain income directly from the tournaments they play, rather than waiting for the WRU to channel cash to them as now.

    The Cardiff Blues, the Ospreys, the Scarlets and the Newport Gwent Dragons are even prepared to go to court for their shares.

    image

    The four regional teams will pocket around £13 million from playing in the newly-sponsored Guinness Pro12, and new European tournaments next season.

    Added to that is the £6.7 million the regions receive from the WRU for handing over international players for training and matches.

    After failing to agree new terms following two years of talks, the regions faced losing the £6.7 million a year for player-release.

    But they will take legal action to ensure the cash they are due to receive for playing in televised tournaments – the £13 million - is given directly to them.

    image

    One senior regional official told Wales Eye: “If we get the money we are due from Europe and the Pro12 then we can continue to operate.

    "It is our money, not the union’s.

    "They merely hand it over to us.

    "They are middle men.

    "But they will fight to keep it going through their own accounts."

    Direct payments to the regions that do not go through the WRU accounts would reduce the union’s turnover.

    The regions thought they had a new six-year deal last week, only for the whole painful process to collapse.

    Once again, the falling-out was followed by the tedious exchange of press releases.

    image

    The regions talked of an indescribably tortuous process of endless telephone calls and meetings.”

    The WRU put out a statement saying they would not respond.

    The non-response included an accusation that the regions were "emotionally charged."

    Wales Eye understand that both sides believed they had agreed a deal at the end of last month and shook hands on it.

    It would have given Wales coach Warren Gatland free rein to gather his international players, and in return the regions would receive an extra £2 million a year on top of the £6.7 million.

    image

    Apart from being better for the Wales team under Mr Gatland, the extra cash would, in effect, have been a refund - as the top Wales players were to be given central contracts, funded by the WRU, so saving the regions from having to pay them from their own funds.

    But the deal collapsed because the WRU would not commit in writing to ring-fencing the extra money.

    Instead of being totally guaranteed for each of the six years, close scrutiny of the union’s amendments to a document made it clear the money could conceivably be clawed back through other means and only be paid if the union felt they could afford it.

    The WRU have consistently argued in public that they will not put the financial health of the game in danger in order to appease the regions.

    image

    The union’s stance is one that plays well with the smaller clubs in Wales which are struggling to stay afloat and have more basic concerns than paying players.

    But the professional end of the game has never felt more isolated and as the row continues more star players are expected to go and earn their living elsewhere.

    The senior regional official added: "This dispute can only end in one of two ways.

    "Either the WRU agree to a fair deal or we will go our own way.

    "By going our own way, we may survive or we may have to all eventually go under.

    "But it will not end the way the union seems to want it to end – with us signing another very bad deal."

    Rugby in Wales is used to dealing with crises.

    But never one as serious as this.

     
  8. Train of thought

    The forecasting skills of the Western Mail’s chief reporter have returned.

    He offered a signal of the current dispute between Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) and the Welsh first minister over bi-lingual rail announcements, days before the row erupted.

    Mystic Martin, as he has become known to fans, tweeted about bi-lingualism on the Manchester to Shrewsbury service earlier this month.

    Although these locations are in England, Martin Shipton was not, in fact, being sarcastic.

    image

    Mystic Martin had noted that passengers must change in Shrewsbury for Cardiff, with signs provided on the rail service in both Welsh and English, although announcements are not.

    Bizarrely there is no rail service between north and south Wales without going through England.

    Within days of Mr Shipton’s tweet, a story about bi-lingual train announcements in Cardiff moved from the sidings to the network, with first minister Carwyn Jones complaining about the ‘shirty response’ of ATW.

    For this, Mr Jones was attacked over Twitter for being "naive" by the ITV correspondent for Wales and the West, Rupert Evelyn.

    image

    He wrote:  "Wasn’t convinced the FM would be so naive."

    But Mr Evelyn’s controversial tweet only served to inflame the situation.

    Wales Eye have in the past been highly critical of TV news personalities making public statements (see 

    The responses by the BBC had been to reprimand the first offender when he worked at the corporation, Rhun ap Iorwerth now assembly member for Ynys Mon, and overlook the failings of the second.

    Guidelines were apparently ‘tightened up’ but promptly ignored.

    The BBC’s Welsh Affairs Editor, Vaughan Roderick, also waded into this week’s row by defending the first minister and saying on Twitter that his views were not naive.

    But the response outside the corporation was rather stronger than simple reprimands.  

    Rhondda assembly member Leighton Andrews, dubbed Mr Evelyn "posh boy" and suggested he might now be reported to ITV for “bias”.

    The tweet of Mr Jones had obviously touched a nerve.

    He said:  I was trolled for the first time – I guess that’s something to mark up.

    "But it is dealt with now."

    image

    image

    The first minister had tweeted from his personal account, although it is not clear that a politician paid by the public, has a ‘private’ view.

    However, it was evident he was not best pleased by the ATW response to his complaint and made his views known over social media.

    But Mystic Martin was already well-ahead of events.

    Mr Shipton had tweeted about bi-lingual train announcements several days earlier.

    4 Jul 2014

    Just boarded a train in Manceinion for Amwythig whose journey is entirely in Lloegr. I entirely approve of this bilingualism!

    Just over a week later, the row over bi-lingual train announcements gathered steam.

    ATW, through hapless worker Anton, apologised profusely the day after Mr Jones had made his anger public.

    But there is another line to the story which has been unreported.

    If this had been a case in the south east of England, and the Prime Minister had complained about rail services there, it would have been all over UK newspapers.

    Reporters might have been despatched to track down the poor rail worker responsible.

    But then, this is Wales.

     
  9. Open and shut case

    After Wales secretary David Jones was sacked, attention has shifted from questions about why the Welsh environment minister lost his job.
     
    But Alun Davies’ search for information could prove credible and today we publish an open letter attempting to get the details he wanted.
     
    Internal emails released by the Welsh government reveal how Mr Davies had verbally repeated the request for information despite being made aware of concerns.
     
    He apologised for his behaviour when the news emerged, but not at first, personally to the senior opposition AMs he had attempted to secure details about.
     
    Mr Davies toured television studios the evening he was sacked clutching a statement but refusing to answer questions.
     
    The BBC would not accept his terms although ITV Wales did (see - ).
     
    image
     
    First Minister Carwyn Jones urged his former minister to go further and apologise not simply to his civil servants and assembly members, but to the five politicians who may have received agricultural grant money from the Common Agriculatural Policy.
     
    Mr Davies then wrote a carefully-worded letter apologising for his behaviour to the senior assembly members who had been named.
     
    Close analysis of the internal emails, reveals Mr Davies gave officials his controversial request for information, the day after he was carpeted for apparently lobbying to secure a racing circuit in his constituency of Blaenau Gwent.
     
    He was reprimanded by Mr Jones for breaking the ministerial code and came within a whisker of losing his job.
     
    Wales Eye have heard accusations of "arrogancelevelled at Mr Davies by assembly politicians.
     
    Another senior policy-maker said:  "It was incredible.
     
    "He thought he was unassailable."
     
    But although the way Mr Davies tried to secure the information about agricultural grants awarded to assembly members was wrong, was it actually correct to establish the truth?
     
    Perhaps it was right to uncover the information. 
     
    image

     
    The total figure of taxpayers cash which was handed over to the five assembly members, would have been substantial but the exact amounts remain unknown.
     
    Perhaps the named politicians would like to reveal how much, if any, public money they received, and we now invite them to do so:
     
    To:
    Andrew RT Davies, AM
     
    Antoinette Sandbach, AM
     

    Kirsty Williams, AM

    William Powell, AM
     
    Llyr Grufydd, AM
     
     
    Dear assembly members,
     
    It has been widely reported that former Welsh government minister Alun Davies had abused his position by trying to obtain information about the payment amounts that you received under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
     
    For this he has lost his job.
     
    While it was entirely inappropriate for Mr Davies to use his role for party political ends, we think there are compelling reasons for information about money that politicians have received from the taxpayer to be in the public domain.
     
    We believe in a transparent democracy and are convinced the public’s confidence in their elected representatives would be reinforced through total disclosure.
     
    We would like to offer you a platform to disclose the money you have received from Pillar 1 & 2 of the CAP.
     
    Also, if you do not feel it is appropriate that this information should be in the public domain, we would be happy to publish your reasons.
     

    Yours sincerely
     
    Wales Eye
     
  10. 00:30 14th Jul 2014

    Notes: 1

    Tags: comment

    The only show trial in town

    By Daran Hill of Positif Politics

    The public destruction of Alun Davies following his sacking from the environment job by the first minister has been the story of the week.

    There can be three possible interpretations of why the events have happened.

    The first is that he was a bad minister making bad decisions and had become a problem to the government.

    This is the story being pursued by the opposition parties as they seek to link a series of events, and call into question first minister Carwyn Jones’ judgement over not removing him the previous week (Alun Davies was reprimanded for breaking the ministerial code in lobbying for a new race track in his constituency Blaenau Gwent).

    image

    The second, and darker, interpretation is that Alun Davies was brought down by a series of leaks within government to force him out.

    This supports the notion of creating a narrative.

    The third interpretation would be that he was sacked not for a string of offences but for the one he committed in asking for the information on farm subsidies for opposition members, and it is not part of a bigger series of errors.

    This is the Carwyn Jones version of events and was supported in his public statements.

    He has strongly rejected the narrative interpretation, and located the issue squarely on one error, though at the same time conceding the former minister was in a very difficult position following the previous week.

    The row has rumbled on and on.

    'First minister’s questions' was always going to be difficult on Tuesday, but the debate on the ministerial code the following day, was equally challenging, even though the first minister handled it better.

    The front page stories in The Western Mail may have stopped now but with the standards commissioner expected to look at the issue, it has not gone away.

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    Let me be clear: Alun Davies made a serious error of judgement in requesting information from officials about political opponents.

    He has paid a high price and made a series of public apologies.

    It was over that one incident he lost his job.

    Prior to that he was a highly effective minister who demonstrated energy and enthusiasm for his portfolio, driving forward his party’s agenda with zeal and courage.

    Yet the majority of the coverage and comments this week has verged on the hysterical.

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    It has resembled a show trial in many respects, and lacks proportion and perspective.

    Alun Davies has lost his ministerial office in the most public and brutal way, and is unlikely ever to get that back.

    His dismissal was the appropriate action to take.

    Talk of whether he is unfit to hold public office is entirely spurious and exaggerated.

    Alun Davies did wrong and he has already suffered for that decision.

    The feeding frenzy must end or it risks destroying more than the reputation of one sorry individual.

    Daran Hill is director of Positif Politics http://www.positifgroup.co.uk