Don’t Mention The Merger!

Council mergers will play a key role in the 2016 election, says Lia Hind.

As political activists across Wales gear up for yet another season of campaigning in the run up to the Welsh Assembly elections in May, it won’t just be the usual topics such as health and education that will be at the forefront of political debate. Because, this time, many will be considering the impact a Welsh Labour win will have on the very survival of their local counties. With the prospect of local government reform very much in voter’s minds, it is hardly a secret that Welsh Labour’s proposal to force dozens of local authorities into mergers has been met with criticism by almost all corners of Wales.

When news first began circulating that the Welsh Government was commissioning a report into local government reform, popular consensus was that the current model of 22 local authorities was unsustainable and indeed, something had to give. But whilst many did, and do still believe that reform is inevitable, what materialised from the now infamous Williams Commission was for many, the stuff of nightmares!

The independent report, chaired by former NHS Chief Executive Sir Paul Williams and published in January 2014, recommended that the current model of 22 local authorities should be slashed to as little as 10 in order to ensure key public services could be maintained in light of budget cuts and delivery more efficient and fit for purpose.

Ironic then, that the findings of said report, which cost the Welsh tax payer over £130,000, was subsequently rebuffed by the newly appointed Public Services Minister, Leighton Andrews, and shelved for his own personal preference of how the Welsh map should look – notably, with as little as six authorities. I sometimes wonder whether it would have just been cheaper to simply hand Mr Andrews a box of crayons along with an A4 pad?

Disturbing still, was the proposal that would see the county of Monmouthshire merged with not just Newport, but with Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly. A Super Gwent if you will!

Not surprisingly, the announcement was met with a barrage of protest ranging from displeasure to outright venom from politicians to business owners, to more importantly, constituents. Because whilst Monmouthshire may reside as closest neighbour to Newport and Torfaen, it is a county that boasts a distinct uniqueness to that of the other contenders for Super Gwent.

Perhaps most glaringly obvious is that Monmouthshire’s borders are predominantly enveloped by English counties and that has resulted in it being heavily anglicised.

It bears very little resemblance economically, demographically and let’s state the obvious, politically, to any of its neighbouring Welsh counties. It has long been considered one of the most affluent counties in Wales (certainly in S.E Wales) and boasts a higher level of ageing residents than anywhere else in Gwent. Figures released by the Office of National Statistics also predict that the population of Monmouthshire will age faster than any other area in Gwent over the next 20 years in contrast to Newport which will see its population age the slowest. This is just one example where the distinct differences between an affluent, rural, ageing county and an urban, younger city council with some of the highest levels of poverty in the United Kingdom will pose a problem when it comes to priorities in terms of policy making. One of the biggest concerns that has been voiced to me by local people and councillors in Monmouthshire, is that of retaining a truly local democratic voice.

The proposed Super Gwent will incorporate four of the poorest regions in Wales – one of which a city – with one of the most affluent and ageing and, therefore, priorities over provision and certain key services are naturally going to vary considerably. I am neither affluent nor ageing (in as much as the term is meant!) but it would be rather daft of me to not respect that the desire to concentrate on issues such as health and social care provision are going to be far more pressing than that of a brand new city centre shopping complex.

And so this brings me to the most important point of all that I fear Welsh Government ministers have so far failed to gauge correctly.

That is, the public’s mood towards the prospect of losing ever more power in the growing trend of centralisation nurtured by the Welsh Labour Government. Super Gwent would shove over 600,000 constituents into one authority with the loss of a vast number of council seats and would require a senior management team so stringently hand-picked from across every former county so as to avoid accusations of personal agendas, it will be the stuff of dreams for regional journalists should any sniff of favouritism towards a particular area arise!

Personally, I would be mortified to think that a group of councillors from Newport along with a senior team of civil servants from Caerphilly would have any bearing at all on a decision to keep my local leisure centre or library open. In fact, even writing this makes my blood boil to be honest!

Let’s also just point out that the overwhelming majority of voter’s in Monmouthshire have returned a Conservative MP, AM and Conservative-led council for a number of years and the fact that all the other four counties primed for Super Gwent are strong-holds for Labour is, whether people like it or not, a massive bone of contention for Monmouthshire constituents. The idea that a Welsh Labour Cabinet dozens of miles away (presumably based in some brand new shiny building the Welsh tax payer’s will be forced to waste more money building should this car-crash happen) will be making decisions on whether to fund a community project in a Conservative-held Monmouthshire village is going to be a very bitter pill to swallow should it be declined.

And whether you support Labour or Conservative or anyone else, this leaves a very nasty taste in my mouth as far as respecting and upholding the idea of localism and the right to local democratic decision making goes.

I know of some Welsh Labour councillors who think it is a great idea as it will undoubtedly snuff out any reign of Conservatives in Monmouthshire and will, in their own words, give them a chance of “being part of a Labour-led authority”. Whilst I personally would enjoy nothing more than seeing the leaders of Monmouthshire Council – both elected and management – kicked into touch, my appetite for a credible, fair and democratic system is far healthier than the one willing to undermine it purely for vengeful purposes.

It’s also worth noting that Monmouthshire was the only county out of the 22 in Wales, to vote ‘No’ in the 2011 Welsh devolution referendum. Some may accuse Monmouthshire of isolating itself from the rest of Wales, but I would argue it is politicians that have isolated Monmouthshire. Monmouthshire has had no choice but to revel in its own uniqueness and accept its seat at the proverbial kid’s table at the devo party, so can you really blame it for being more than a little hacked off it is now simply to be slung into a mishmash of counties simply on the say so of one man? A man, I hasten to add, who was not actually elected on a mandate to carry out such reorganisations!

Lia Hind is a former journalist.

99 thoughts on “Don’t Mention The Merger!

  1. First, I don’t believe that this will be an election issue for most people in Wales. I think the vast majority of people here have yet to realise that the Welsh Assembly is responsible for health and education in Wales (none of our major newspapers deal with Welsh issues and national Welsh news on television is a real echo of county news in England – gossip and sport ). If Welsh people really grasped what devolution has brought, would they really go on knee jerking us into a Labour dictatorship?

    So Mr Andrew’s crayon will inevitably shape our future and land us with a Labour dictatorship in Monmouthshire. The prospect is horrendous, and not just for political reasons. As Lia points out, it would be yoking the truly incompatible forcibly together. We’ve been there. We hated it.

    As for Lia’s final point about the Monmouthshire difference from Wales as a whole -isn’t this exactly why our political class will be so delighted to see Monmouthshire disappear? At whatever cost to us? #punishment #revenge

  2. “Super-Gwent” ! Yes I never understood the addition of Caerphilly. However that aside the proposal is the historic Monmouthshire: a county that existed for hundreds of years. How could Conservatives object to that?

  3. @ Anne Wareham.A very true and accurate statement. Why does the LA not organize a ‘referendum’ on the wishes of its population of a)transfer into mighty Gwent,or b)transfer to England???.The welsh NATS are mighty fond of referenda when in THEIR interests ,bot other people who perhaps do not wish to live under total nationalist/socialist control???

  4. Monmouthshire, or rather Gwent has it was called at the time, was dissolved into the present 5 utility areas, how we are being merged together again. Gwent or Monmouthshire or whatever you want to call it, existed for 100s of years as a proud Welsh county, it’s good to see it finally coming back together again. As for Monmouthshire being different from the rest of Wales, rubbish. I was born in Monmouthshire and have no idea what is meant by us somehow being ‘different’ from the rest of Wales.

  5. A party wanting to take Monmouthshire into England stood at the election before last. They polled fewer votes than Plaid Cymru in the constituency. Nuff said.

  6. I don’t accept the ‘unique Monmouthshire’ argument at all. Every one of the current 22 local authorities has its own distinctiveness (that’s why the current lines were drawn where they are in the first place), including Monmouthshire, but it is no more or less demographically unique than any other of the current administrative areas. Of course it’s also not strictly speaking Conservative either, it’s no overall control; the Tories are the largest group, but the majority of Monmouthshire residents did not vote Conservative at the last election.

  7. @ philip

    The basis of that description, which I agree is somewhat crude, is that in the 2011 referendum, Monmouthshire was the only county to vote against granting legislative powers to the National Assembly. People’s way of understanding this is to describe Monmouthshire as being different from the rest of Wales. However it doesn’t offer us much in the way of analysis. It is no answer to the question why did Monmouthshire vote against legislative powers to say because it is different. More substantial evidence is required to have a meaningful discussion on this.

  8. Lia, Your response is a classic of its kind. Sensible reform of public services in Wales is constantly being stymied by such opposition to almost any plan ever devised, and not just in local government. Every plan for reform of the health services is immediately opposed by local groups, who then attract the support of opposition parties. We end up going nowhere, while the public suffers. It seems to me that there are three natural tiers of governance in Wales – the national all-Wales level, a regional level that would comprise no more than 8 regions, and a truly local community level that could be even smaller than the existing 22 councils, genuinely local. The third of these tiers has not received enough attention, but we cannot afford to wait any longer before grappling with the middle tier. It was a shame that Labour didn’t put local government reorganisation in its manifesto for the 2011 elections. It can hardly blamed for putting it in this one. Don’t blame Ministers for doing their job.

  9. Perhaps we are too constrained by old physical boundaries in an increasingly virtual world. Monmouthshire might for example be better merged with Cardiganshire, Powys and (if they cleaned their act up!) Pembrokeshire. Some imagination would be needed to share the management of services with areas not immediately on the boundary but if the needs of the recipients were fundamentally aligned – often not the case with a rural/urban merger – the outcome might be better for all.

  10. What is the English nationalist obsession with getting a referendum to annex Monmouthshire? 1) The people of Monmouthshire have never expressed any interest in this madcap idea. 2) The proposed referendum is being engineered by an English party based in England who are drumming up anti-Welsh support amongst English incomers in Monmouthshire. 3) The proposed referendum outsiders are trying to impose on us is for all of the historic county of Monmouthshire (does anyone really believe that the population of Newport, Cwmbran, Pontypool, Ebbw Vale, will allow that) 4) Monmouthshire has never been part of English and a vote of secession would be illegal under the UN charter. 5) In 1972-1974 we were consulted on the issue of Monmouthshire (despite the English nationalist attempts to say we were not), and the overwhelming support was for Monmouthshire to be reconfirmed as a Welsh county and (note reconfirmed, we were not transferred from England to Wales as English nationalist want us to believe)

  11. To philip. Monmouthshire is very english. I have lots of family in the old gwent area, most of the people there are english origin. Its people like you who cause division and war by your welsh fanatacism which is basically a kind of facism. The people of wales are vadtly overgoverned by far too many tiers. The last people in wales with any say or power is the people. But slowly the mask of fraud of all these parties is slipping and people really dont like any of them. The councils exist now for themselves and in no way provide any localism and views of the ordinary people.

  12. My Welsh fanaticism? Are you saying that because a lot of people who are now living in Monmouthshire are English incomers they have the right to call a referendum. Where is the support in Monmouthshire for your referendum? There isn’t any support. The Monmouthshire is English nonsense is being engineered by an extremist English nationalist party based in England who are drumming up anti-Welsh sentiment amongst English incomers. I live in the old Gwent area and I don’t know anyone here who feels English or wants a referendum. If you are from the old Gwent area then you will be well aware that we were consulted and asked about this in the early 70s and the idea that we were actually English was a joke then and is a joke now

  13. That anyone can say that ‘there are three natural levels of governance in Wales’ just shows how devolution has made the Welsh mindset even more bureaucratic. No, the very last thing we need is three levels of politicians and officials in Wales. We need only one level of local government, so long as it is truly local. The all-Wales level has never made any sense at all in terms of economic geography. and has struggled to find a role in administrative terms. As for sub-regional government, it was tried in 1974 and found wanting. What we need is a clear system of local government that is accountable because it is based on generally ccepted local identities.

  14. Actually there are 4 levels of governance in Wales. We have the local councils which are now being merged, the Welsh Assembly to look after Wales, Westminster (not sure what that does) and the European Union. None of these affect me greatly and none have made me the slightest bit bureaucratic. With the merger of the councils (hopefully we will get Gwent / Monmouthshire back) and more power to the Assembly I think we will have the correct level of governance in Wales. Westminster can do what it is that it does and the European Union can carry on looking after the interest of us all and protecting the UK on the world stage.

  15. In fact, we have five levels of government in many parts of Wales, and, were it not for the reforms of the 1990s, they would now have six: community; district; county; Wales; UK; Europe. The basic principle of all management is to have as few levels of hierarchy as possible. This maximises efficiency and minimises organisational conflict. We really need only two levels of accountable government: local unitary authorities and sovereign national authority – whether we choose Wales or the UK as the basis for that – with perhaps a voluntary consultative representation at community level. Everything else is superfluous and a waste of money taken coercively from those who earn it.

  16. A waste of money seems to be the manta of a certain party who are desperate to abolish the Assembly. Please be honest, this isn’t about money, this isn’t about what is best for Wales and our future. “Waste of money” is simply a manta to be repeated until you get what you want.

  17. There is – alas – no party currently committed to abolition of the Assembly. If there was, it might do well next year.

    What is best for Wales in terms of local government is what is best for all countries : local councils that are responsive to local needs; the removal of superfluous levels of politicians and bureaucrats; and, yes, a constant determination to avoid wasting taxpayers’ money.

  18. superfluous levels of politicians and bureaucrats

    And who decides these superfluous levels of politicians and bureaucrats, should that just be you or all the people of Wales? Abolishing the Assembly is a fantasy of ex-UKIPers, and lets be honest ex-BNP and English Democratic party members. The people of Wales realise it’s in their best interest and it’s in the best interest of our children and grandchildren, to go forward with devolution and get more powers for the assembly. John as a good party member you are obviously going to repeat at every opportunity your manta of “WAG failure”, “WAG a waste of money”, “WAG not needed”, “WAG Marxists”, that is your right. But don’t forget the rest of us, inconveniently for the anti-WAG mob, have the rights too, even if it is the right to laugh at the dinosaurs who want to turn the clock back.

  19. Philip, if you are going to rely an ‘ad hominem’ personal attack – a logical fallacy which is always a sign of a weak intellectual case – at least check your facts first.

    To call someone who is not a member of any political party ‘a good party member’ shows that you do not base your arguments on proper research and thus undermines the credibility of everything you say.

    Apart from anything else, simply reading the previous comment would have informed you that no major political party is currently committed to abolition of the Assembly.

    To equate opposition to the Assembly with membership of the BNP or the EDL is a vile slur, and the mere fact that you feel the need to resort to such offensive misrepresentations is itself evidence of your inability to construct a positive case for the Assembly.

  20. I am getting quite tired of remarks such as Monmouthshire people are mainly of english descent and therefore in some way ‘less welsh’.

    How do you truly decide nationality ? The people of the valleys came from all over the UK when the industrial revolution began, there were flemish settlers in the West, the vikings , the romans, even now somalians and poles – our history has been a succession of different groups coming and going through the ages and will continue to be so.

    I think it is about time both camps – both nats and anti-nats – took a holiday and read some history books or watched the news again to see how minor differences have been exploited by fanatics to destroy the middle east. The children of this generation seem to get it, about time the grown ups did.

  21. Only a few fanatics believe that Monmouthshire was, or is, English. The only people in Monmouthshire who support this nonsensical rubbish are English immigrants

  22. J Jones, while wishing you well, if ATWAP really wants to make an impact, it should have one policy commitment and one only…

    “If elected, we will bring a motion to the Assembly which transfers its executive functions to the Secretary of State and its scrutiny functions to the Commons Select Committee, so that it need not sit again. The money that previously went towards the salaries of Members, their bag carriers, their PR machine, and all the extra bureaucrats and quangocrats appointed since 1997, in addition to all associated expenses – find out the exact figure, which must be a tidy eight figure, possibly nine figure, sum every year – will instead be spent on a new Welsh Institute of Cancer Research. This international-level organisation will put Wales on the map as a world leader in medical advancement, and generate thousands of millions in high value-added spinoffs in the Welsh economy. There should be enough left over to fund a Welsh Institute of Technology and a Welsh Enterprise foundation, tasked with kick-starting cultural revolutions in information technology and entrepreneurship across all sectors in Wales. Within ten years, we will turn Wales into the British equivalent of Switzerland.”

    ATWAP should not present itself in negative terms as simply being against something, but must offer a positive vision of an alternative. Given a straight choice between this vision and the Assembly, most Welsh people would vote for the Welsh Institute of Cancer Research, etc ….assuming the Welsh media ever told them…

  23. Please permit me the opportunity to correct the misapprehensions held by John Winterson Richards and J. Jones by assuring them both and all your other readers that there IS a party which wants the assembly abolished. Appropriately enough it is called ABOLISH THE WELSH ASSEMBLY PARTY or ATWAP for short.

    For those of us who care about the future for people of Wales ATWAP is our only hope of rescuing our country from the political class which runs its own agenda.

  24. An interesting pipe dream, but as everyone knows if the Assembly is abolished the money will just be swallowed up by Westminster and Wales will return to the bottom of the UK pile and just get the occasional crumbs as we did pre 1997 when the assembly was established.

  25. ATWAP should not present itself in negative terms as simply being against something, but must offer a positive vision of an alternative.

    What absolute drivel. Even by the despite standards of the ATWAP. Everything will be possible if we only scrap the assembly eh? News flash, pre-1999 why wasn’t Wales the earthly paradise you ATWAP clowns think it was? A

  26. Philip, has anyone said pre-1999 Wales was an ‘Earthly Paradise’? If so, who? Quotes, please.

    Of course, no one is saying anything of the sort – but what the facts are saying is that Wales was not as far behind our nearest neighbours as we are now.

    If, instead of saying insulting things about people with whom you disagree, you can think of any ways in which the daily lives of the people of Wales are better for having a superfluous level of government in Cardiff Bay, please do list them. We would be happy to discuss them, rationally and politely.

  27. To be fair if you compare like for like, comparing Wales with the poorest regions of England, Wales is actually gaining ground. So in that respect the Assembly isn’t a superfluous level of government and what is the point of having a rational debate with the ATWAP, who’s only argument is the Assembly has been a failure and the ATWAP knows best. If they can’t accept the democratic decision of the people of Wales perhaps they should consider moving out. While no one said we were an earthly paradise before devolution I believe Philip is right, the ATWAP are trying to kid as that everything was so much better before devolution, which is plainly not the case, things are obviously much better for most of us since devolution.

  28. As usual John, you ignore the chronology to suit your prejudice. Pre-democracy, we had a Westminster government determined to destroy the coal industry in Wales not for reasons of economic development but out of political malice. Any Prime Minister who describes her own citizens as the enemy within is someone not fit to hold public office. What became clear to those who supported the miners’ action was that the only protection available against a hostile State was democracy.

  29. It’s a political viewpoint Philip. Some people actually believe that the Welsh Assembly was a mistake and that we couldn’t be worse off under direct control of Westminster. Others, like myself , quite like some things that the WA has done but now believe that the “devolution trip” is a one way journey to independence and that the Union is actually a good institution on the whole and that we want the journey to go into reverse.

    Whatever, no one wants to abduct your children, pillage your home or rape your wife and the nasty, sneering and often viciously personal posts of Welsh Nationalists are abhorrent to many decent people.

  30. ‘Pre-democracy’? Seriously, Rhobat? Are you really claiming that there was no democracy before 1999? You know we had democracy at both national and local level. All that changed in 1999 was the establishment of a superfluous, and frankly gerrymandered, level of government. The pretext you give for that is a skewed view of history based on irrational hatred. Hopefully the IWA will soon give us the opportunity to discuss that in greater detail. For the moment – going back to the original article – the Assembly can be said to be anti-democratic in its proposals to make local democracy less local.

    Grant, you ask, presumably rhetorically, ‘what is the point of having a rational debate?’ Rational debate is, of course, the best way to find and spread truth. For example, it is true to say that global free markets and new technologies have improved the standard of living for most in Wales since 1999. The real question is whether that is because of the Assembly or in spite of it? The evidence is overwhelming that in the three key areas of the Assembly’s responsibility – education, health, and economic development – Wales has fallen further behind England, and these failures can be traced, at least in part, to specific Assembly policies.

    It is in the nature of democracy that voters sometimes make bad decisions, and when they do, in a democracy, they have both the right and the duty to reverse them.

  31. Hold on John, you claim that the Assembly has failed on health and economical development just doesn’t hold water, it’s the same tired nationalist propaganda. The downturn in our economy started pre 1996, that is years before the assembly was set up. And as you know the health service in Wales is no different from the health service in England. If you wish to reply please grant me the courtesy of not excepting me to believe the rather childish propaganda of the ATWAP. It’s almost as bad as expecting me to believe that the assembly will lead to the break up of the UK. No disrespect intended but if you use 6th form logic to further your fantasies you should expect to be to be treated as a kid

  32. Grant, facts are facts. The Assembly’s failures on education, health, and economic development are well-documented, almost universally accepted, and have been widely discussed on this website. You can check most of the relevant hard data online.

    The main health statistics on waiting times and cancer care are well known and easily accessible. Part of the reason for talk of a ‘line of death along Offa’s Dyke’ is the decision by the Welsh Assembly to divert resources from patient care to a much-criticised reorganisation. Even The Assembly was forced to admit this was a mistake and consequently had to divert even more resources to a re-reorganisation.

    The generally accepted international comparison of education is the PISA data. Even a past Labour ‘Minister of Education’ has admitted that ideologically driven Assembly policies such as opposition to testing may be a contributory factor in Wales’ poor performance.

    The most quoted economic development statistic is GDP per head. Again, even supporters of the Assembly accept it has performed poorly in this regard and many believe its policy of taking the functions of the WDA in-house was a contributory factor.

    Now the Assembly’s latest policy failure is its proposal to waste up to £250,000,000 on an un-needed reorganisation of local government – which will probably, following the example of its health reorganisation, require re-reorganisation before long.

    This is not ‘fantasy’ or ‘propaganda’ but the subject of a great deal of open discussion, not least on this website. Look it up for yourself. Even supporters of the Assembly express disappointment with its performance, most privately, some publicly – like Professor Calvin Jones only today in this website’s lead article.

    So the question is not whether the Assembly has performed badly – practically everyone agrees that, including its advocates – but how long this experiment must continue before we can all admit that it has failed.

  33. If everyone knows the Assembly has failed on the economy and health perhaps you would provide examples of the legislation that the resulted in the failure of the health system in Wales, the economy in Wales etc

  34. Instead of saying “are well known” perhaps you could give some of the “well known” examples of how the WAG has failed on the health service.

    The WAG hasn’t performed badly, that is just an Unionist nationalist manta. The people of Wales are happy with the Assembly and its performance. Yes, it could do better. But Westminster had 500 years to do better and they failed for 500 years. The solution to the problems we have in Wales will not found by the propaganda of the Abolish Wales Party. A party which has made it clear that if the Assembly is abolished that Monmouthshire will be given to England, without a referendum, has a reward for bankrolling the Abolish Wales Party

  35. Philip, by all means check out the figures for yourself. Talking of figures, what is the statistical basis for your rather sweeping claim that the people of Wales are ‘happy’ with the Assembly and its performance? According to one recent survey about half of them do not even know that the Assembly is responsible for health!

    Even the UK Labour Party was trying to avoid talking about its record in the Assembly during the General Election. They did not consider it was a plus point for them.

    Meanwhile, the question posed in a previous comment remains unanswered: can you think of any ways in which the Assembly has made the lives of the people of Wales better, which could not have been done if it had never existed, that is sufficient to justify its additional overhead?

  36. In what way has Westminster made the lives of the people of Wales better. Should we get rid of Westminster because the ambulance waiting times exceed Westminster’s limits? Lets not forget Westminster has failed on heath and Westminster has failed on the economy. Westminster is a failed institution that serves no purpose. Why not save money and get rid of Westminster and have direct rule by the EU, a body that actually listens to what the people of Europe want.

    Every survey carried out in Wales shows that the people are happy with the assembly. Regarding the line of death quote, there is no evidence of any difference between the standard of health care in Wales and England. Let’s hold the WAG to account but lets get away from this Daily Mail fantasy that the WAG has failed on health and should be abolished and lets work together for the good of all of Wales. The case for abolishing the WAG rests on nothing more than anti-Welsh racism fuelled by the Daily Mail.

  37. John I have asked you time and time and time and time again to prove the English fantasy of how the Assembly has failed on health. Can you stop avoiding that issue and explain how the Assembly has failed us on health? Yes we all know how much the Assembly spends on health. We know that most people think Westminster is responsible for health. The state of the NHS in Wales and the state of the NHS in England and how much better or worse one is from the other is the question and the only unbiased answer to that, by the Nuffield Trust, is there is no significant difference between the NHS in Wales and England.

  38. Philip don’t play their game, the only policy they have is to keep repeating failure until people believe them.

  39. Facts which you have been unable to provide despite repeated asking. Tell you what instead of providing facts, which so far you have been unable to do, why don’t you just keep repeating the ATWAP slogan of Wales failed and I will follow Grants advice and ignore any further posts from you.

  40. Philip, the facts are the facts. The whole point is to encourage you to look them up for yourself. Only then will you accept that some of the things you have said go beyond even what one of the Assembly’s own taxpayer-funded PR people would say – and perhaps not even then.

  41. Philip, the facts are the facts. The whole point is to encourage you to look them up for yourself.

    Actually I have looked up the facts myself and there is nothing to back up your parties line that the WAG has failed.

    Yes, the NHS in Wales is in a bad way, but the NHS in England is in the same way. Yes, the economy of Wales is below the average GVA of the rest of the UK, but horror of horrors, the downturn in our economy started 3 years BEFORE the WAG was set up and we are in a similar position to the poor regions of England. The WAG inherited an economy that was going down the pan before it was set up and a top heavy public sector and the WAG are making headway in getting our economy back on track. To go back to direct Westminster misrule would condemn Wales to the bottom of the UK forever.

    Yes the facts are the facts, and your wishful thinking and constant parroting of your parties manta “Wales has failed”, is NOT A FACT.

    Whatever happens you are just going to parrot your party line of “Wales has failed” and I am fed up of asking you to back up your parroted phases with facts that support your parties claim.


  42. @ Philip Hughes

    Well said.


    Your attempt at using an old debating trick is at best transparent. State an opinion, claim it is based on research, challenge others to find the non-existent data.

    As Philip says, your position is based on an ideological prejudice which cannot be verified. Philip’s challenge is worth re-iterating. You state, “Philip, five minutes with any reliable search engine should enable you to find the facts.”

    Then you can facilitate that by listing some of the websites that you “know about”. If you cannot, then it is then only legitimate to raise questions about the integrity and honesty of your contribution to this debate.

    As for your view that, ” The whole point is to encourage you to look them up for yourself”, this forum is not a school and you are not its teacher. Argue your case. That is the principle on which political debate is conducted.

  43. Rhobat, this ceased to be a debate some time ago, so there are no debating points here. The facts were stated in previous comments, more than once, and those denying them were invited to look them up for themselves. They responded by repeating rather inane generalised denials, some expressed in fairly insulting terms, with no counter-evidence being submitted that would enable to debate to progress. That is actually quite disappointing, because it would be entertaining to engage with a reasoned and informed defence of the Assembly’s record.

    So the same challenge is extended to you. Are you saying that the Assembly has had a good record since 1999? Has it made the lives of the people of Wales better in ways that would have not have been possible had it not existed? Do those benefits justify its additional costs? If so, on what evidence do you base that belief?

    To put it another way, being absolutely honest, has the Assembly really lived up to your expectations when you campaigned for it in 1997? Honestly.

    On the specific issue of health, are you actually arguing that the NHS is actually better in Wales than it is in England? If so, on what evidence do you base that?

    All right, it has to be admitted that there is one debating device here – the rhetorical question – because we both know the answer to that last one. While an internet search comes up with evidence that the NHS is run better in England that might at least be open to debate, absolutely nothing was found that indicated it was run better in Wales. If you have found something, it would be interesting to discuss it. We both know that the generalised denials are based on a misguided patriotism that refuses to admit anything in Wales might be inferior. Perhaps the more truly patriotic approach is to be honest about problems and to start discussing how we might solve them.

  44. In truth Wales has diverged from England by so much that, without a common measure, it has become impossible to comparel. Some points made in defence of Wales are justified however; our level of poverty and the nature of our society is more akin to North Yorkshire and Humberside rather than England as a whole. Our GCSE measures are no longer comparable; we “game” the system in much the same way as England did up to 5 years ago but just because we can no longer compare doesn’t mean that we haven’t made improvements. I believe that we have. On the other hand England has done many good things in the area of education but brought in a whole new area of risk and instability with the loss of unified control of schools. Have they improved much?

    Only time…and PISA, will tell.

  45. @ JWR

    So you cannot provide evidence to support your argument. Therefore either the evidence doesn’t exist or you can’t be bothered to produce it. Either way, it you don’t take your own argument seriously, then why should we?

    One comment strikes me as odd and that is the view that Wales must somehow own up to being inferior, presumably to England. Well good to see the colonial cringe alive and well. Except it’s useless as a tool of self-assessment. There is no doubt that Wales has a great many areas in which it can improve; just like England. But we do not start from a sense of inferiority but rather from what we have achieved to date. In order to improve standards of delivery in both the private and the public sector, we need to measure ourselves against best practice. That might come from England but it might equally come from Scotland or Norway or the USA or any other country you care to mention. It might even be that we represent best practice that can be shared with others.

    I have to say that I find your view that we have to adopt a sense of inferiority before solving our problems very revealing.

  46. Because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s a failure. Other posters have asked you to provide facts, so far you haven’t provided a single fact.

  47. Grant; They are not interested in facts, all they are worried about is preserving the union at all costs. Preserving the union means Wales will forever remain the poorest region of the UK and one of the poorest regions of the EU, but that’s not important, the only thing of importance is maintaining the union. Somehow the Unionist Nationalists have rewritten history to portray Wales as a land of milk and honey under Westminster. Its pointless trying to have a debate with people who claim they have “facts” but only constantly chant “two legs bad, four legs good”

  48. It is frustrating how much hot air is wasted on this site because people cannot be bothered to check facts for themselves or even to read properly what others have said.

    Rhobat, you equate the words ‘misguided patriotism that refuses to admit anything in Wales might be inferior’ with a cultural cringe towards England. The words do not bear that interpretation. It is a fact that that there are things in Wales that are inferior to England – such as GDP per head and target indicators in the most important public services – but to equate this with a general sense of Welsh inferiority is itself a good example of the touchiness that is an obstacle to tackling the real problems here.

    As to the verification of these facts, please reread the previous comments. You have been told already of the well-documented difference between Wales and England in terms of GDP per head, PISA scores, waiting times, and cancer care. If you are not prepared to believe what you are told, you have been advised to check for yourself and told how this can now be done on the internet.

    If you still persist in denying these facts – if you are saying that in Wales GDP and PISA scores are higher and waiting times are lower – then please produce your own evidence, so that we may discuss it.

    Meanwhile, it is tedious to be having to repeat all this – especially when we could he having a far more interesting debate… Rhobat, you and confederates have avoided the repeated challenge to offer a positive defence of the Assembly’s record. That would be far more enjoyable than this circular argument. In particular, it could be interesting to have a straight answer to the question posed in the last comment: being absolutely honest, has the Assembly really lived up to your expectations when you campaigned for it in 1997?

    There is, of course, no room for that on the current thread – and we are in any case guilty of monopolising the page set aside for discussing Lia’s excellent article on local government reform (sorry, Lia!). So would you be willing to write a full article in defence of the Assembly’s record and asking the Institute to post it? Then we can have the proper full-blooded debate a lot of people would like to see.

  49. There’s more than a little wilful blindness to what you are saying above Phillip. Accusing some people of only wanting to preserve the Union is thrown out there as if it were some kind of heinous crime. It’s an opinion that is held by 90% of the people of Wales.

    In the context of the debate about Local authority reorganisation we might in other circumstances be considering whether we should amalgamate Monmouthshire with Hereford since they are a better cultural and political “fit” than amalgamating Monmouthshire with Newport. Certainly Eastern Powys might go well with Shropshire. In other words, logic has been set aside by devolution and now people whose Welsh nationalism is important to them bluster and foam at the mouth each time someone points out the downsides of devolution.

    From my own point of view I am grateful for devolution when it has resisted privatisation in the Health service or when tuition fees for University are capped at a lower level than is the case in England. On the other hand I know that devolution failed our children when SATs were abolished in favour of unmoderated assessment and that monitoring of school performance in “league tables” was resisted leaving our schools to wallow unchallenged in their mediocrity for a decade. I know too that the expertise essential to good practice in the NHS is better used in centres of excellence and that the separation of the NHS into Welsh and English versions, based around an arbitrary border that is now a political barrier, is a retrograde step.

    Devolution now is an instrument of constant division; nationalism with a small n is the currency of daily political and social debate. Anti British and anti English sentiment and the unthinking championing of anything identifiably Welsh is the political basis of all parties…even UKIP it seems. I find this unacceptable and at times repugnant.

    JWR undoubtedly comes from a different political persuasion that myself and I find some of his opinions alien to my own persuasions but he does make reasonable and well researched points that deserve greater consideration than just shouted denials and personal antagonism.

  50. J. Jones

    “but he does make reasonable and well researched points that deserve greater consideration”

    No, they are not well researched, the points are not even researched. John Richards has been unable to provide one fact to back up his accusations, despite being asked over and over and over again to provide facts. We just the constant tedious drivel that the WAG has failed the health service in Wales and should therefore be abolished, without bothering to mention that the health service in England is in the same state. That somehow the WAG has failed us on the economy, without bothering to mentioned the inconvenient facts that Wales is in almost exactly the same position to the rest of the UK as it has been under 500 years of direct Westminster misrule.

    I am did not say I supported independence, but understand my previous post may have given that impression. My point was Union Nationalists are only concerned about preserving the Union at whatever the cost to Wales. I do not see devolution as a step to independence, just as the federal constitution of the USA, Germany, etc, as not lead to the independence of individual US states or German states. Yes, the WAG can improve its performance, but to constantly shout for its abolishment every time they do something different. When the WAG introduced the 5p charge for carrier bags we had the same shouts, “abolish the WAG”. When the WAG banned smoking in public we had the same shouts “abolish the WAG”. It is plainly impossible and pointless to debate the WAG with such people.

    Regarding the merging of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, that will not work. I am from Monmouthshire and have been to Hereford and Shrewsbury. If you think the Welsh are nationalists and anti-English may I suggest you go to Hereford or Shrewsbury or Bristol and see the nasty anti-Welsh streak in those places.

  51. Philip, the facts were provided to you 20 days ago! If it is too much effort for you to use a search engine, just scroll up this thread and see for yourself.

    The health service in England is ‘not in the same state’ as in Wales. If you have, as you claimed, researched this point, you should know that there are substantial differences in waiting times and cancer care policies between England and Wales.

    Come on, this is not rocket science. It really is ABC stuff. If you are unwilling to take someone else’s word, check for yourself. The whole subject has been well-reported and you will even find defences of the Assembly’s policy if you look – but note that they take the line of trying to explain or excuse the negative statistics rather than denying them.

    If the best case you can make for the Assembly is based on your belief that it has performed well in the target indicators of GDP per head, PISA scores, and waiting times, then there is no case for its retention, because all of that belief is verifiably wrong. Is this why you feel obliged to keep denying the facts?

  52. It might just be, Phillip, that some areas are not so well endowed with the means to establish economic superiority. The desert areas of the middle East for instance were not well off 200 years ago. Now, with a world dependent on oil, they have the most saleable asset on earth.

    Scotland without oil would struggle to maintain the present standards of living enjoyed by its inhabitants and Wales without redistribution of wealth from elsewhere in the UK would be impoverished. And please don’t tell me we could export water at the same price as platinum, the market will take just so much financial blackmail before they turn to other means or other suppliers.

    Where I live in Anglesey we have one of or the lowest GVAs in the UK despite interventions over the years that saw us get a nuclear power station and a very subsidised Aluminium smelter. If we go back to Elizabethan times we find that Anglesey was the only coastal county in Britain which was exempt from Ship Tax. Its plea of extreme poverty and therefore inability to pay was accepted even in those harsher times.

    It may be that Wales as a whole, unless it develops a very vibrant city region in the South East, will remain dependent on redistribution of wealth. Such redistribution is common in many enlightened societies.

  53. John

    You have not provided any facts that the state of the NHS, the economy or education is the result of WAG policy. A number of posters have repeatedly asked you to provide your facts. Which you have constantly refused to do.

    As for researching this myself, if you are to argue that the WAG has failed it is up to you to provide the facts that the WAG failed on health. You have REFUSED to provide any fact that the WAG has failed. Yes, there are differences in waiting times, so according to you we should abolish the WAG. Yes out economy remains lower than England, but its always been lower than England and we are in the same situation as we have always been. We all know that our economy is the lowest of the UK, we all know that it was the lowest of the UK before the WAG was set up, we all know Westminster and the Welsh Office failed Wales every time. Direct Westminster misrule failed Wales is well known.

    But I have researched this myself and the Nuffield Trust report makes it clear there is no significant difference between the Welsh and English NHS. I have researched the data on the Welsh economy and the data is that our economy started its present downward trend in 1996. These are FACTS you should have provided but they conflict with your anti-WAG obsession.

    You are not prepared to let go of your obsession with single handily abolishing the WAG and saving the union as you see it. So please tell me how the WAG failed on the economy. You claim these are well reported, if they are well reported then please share you FACTS. Numerous posters have constantly asked you to provide facts, you failed to provide the Nuffield Trust report, which conflicts with your claim, and you have failed to provide facts on our economy collapsing in 1996, which conflicts with your claim. All you have been abled to provided is the well known informed, our waiting times are not on target so abolish the WAG.

  54. Philip, once again, most of what you say has been answered already in previous comments. Please read them carefully.

    While it is good to see that you have got as far as the Nuffield Report, it most definitely does NOT say that ‘there is no significant difference between the Welsh and English NHS’!!!*

    On the contrary, it is one of the sources for what has already been said about waiting lists. Rather than extract some of the many quotes and statistics in the Report that prove this, here is the whole Report for anyone interested:

    Note in particular that, although Nuffield is actually very kind in trying to explain the discrepancy, that there is a discrepancy is made perfectly clear in the Report.

    Regarding the economy, the issue is not whether there is a historical difference between England and Wales – despite both being equally subject to what you insist on calling Westminster ‘misrule’ – but whether the gap is closing or widening. Now, after 16 years of Cardiff Bay having responsibility for economic development, there is no evidence of any narrowing.

    * Sorry about the capital letters and multiple exclamation marks, but you are really well off the mark on this one.

  55. John

    So you want to abolish the Assembly because of some issues with hospital waiting times. But then England also have problems with hospital waiting times. And because in its 16 years the Assembly hasn’t been able to narrow the gap between the economic development of London and Wales.


    Don’t get me wrong John, I am very grateful for the Empire for saving us from Germany in 1914, 1939 and 1966, but times have moved on and it’s time the UK moved onto a more equal footing. Your arguments for abolishing the Assembly are at best infantile and at worst boarding on obsessive English nationalism. You have convinced yourself and your fellow travellers of the ATWAP of the dangers posed to the UK and the entire human race by the Assembly, and it is your mission in life to abolish the Assembly no matter what the cost to Wales or the UK. To you devolution in Scotland and Wales must be abolished to save the union, but which is really to save “Greater England” state of pre-1997

  56. So the UKIP rejects, otherwise known as the Abolish Wales Party, have gone from “the Assembly has failed at everything, abolish the Assembly, abolish the Assembly, abolish the Assembly” to Their new stance of “our waiting times are not on target, abolish the Assembly, abolish the Assembly, abolish the Assembly”.

    I don’t know which is the funniest, watching them dig deep holes for themselves, or watching them dig deep holes for themselves not knowing they are in a hole and should stop digging. Either way I can’t wait for the next post from our UKIP reject friends, it is after all much better than The Big Bang Theory

  57. ‘You want to abolish the Assembly because of some issues with hospital waiting times.’

    No, Philip, the Assembly should be abolished because it should never have been established in the first place. There was never any administrative or geographic need for an additional level of government at the all-Wales level.

    Its total failure to improve the lives of the Welsh people in all the main spheres of its responsibility – not merely ‘some issues with waiting lists’ – is but confirmation of its pointlessness. If you had been able to refer to some positive good it had done, there might have been a case for the defence, but you have – wisely – not even attempted that.

    The words ‘Westminster misrule’ are a direct quote from your immediately previous comment of 23 December. It is, in any case, a bit rich for you to accuse anyone of putting words in your mouth. For example, in your last comment alone, you accuse someone who belongs to no political party of speaking for a party of whose existence he only became aware during this course of this very thread! Moreover, to accuse a pure-blood Welshman of being motivated by ‘English nationalism’ is not only manifestly inaccurate but a calculated insult – which is always a sign of desperation.

    If you feel you need to descend to that level, then you have already lost.

  58. @ JWR

    So you want to abolish an institution simply because it was established. I think that’s the most incoherent argument I’ve heard yet since it says absolutely nothing in terms of substance but is a perfect tautology.

    The ignorance of facts provides the basis for these wildly concocted opinions. It (the National Assembly) has totally failed to improve the lives of the Welsh people according to JWR, so either free prescription charges did not happen or they have damaged the health of the nation irreparably. On planet JWR, free prescription charges are incapable of benefiting anyone simply because they have emerged from the Welsh Assembly.

    Daran Hill has described people who hold such views as devolution deniers. Given the fact that the people of Wales have had two referenda on the subject and endorsed devolution, the second time with an increased majority in favour, it is also fair to describe them as democracy deniers. JWR’s view appears to be that the people of Wales are wrong because they did and do not agree with him. What is clear is that there is no respect for the Welsh electorate in this point of view. There is no humility before the facts. Without that latter quality, we will never have an intelligent debate worth having about the state of our nation and the future of our country.

  59. John

    “Regarding the economy, the issue is not whether there is a historical difference between England and Wales – despite both being equally subject to what you insist on calling Westminster ‘misrule’ –”

    Still the same eh John, the assembly has failed but you cannot prove that the assembly has failed, but just keep repeating your party line often enough and people will listen to you.

    Can you please point out to me where I said that England had been subject to Westminster misrule. If you can not be trusted to quote someone from this message board then there is really no point listening to your rants against the Assembly. An Assembly which the people of Wales voted for.

  60. The following is a BBC quote from the Nuffield Trust.

    Comparisons are difficult but some can be made. Last year the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation published a study taking the long view of NHS performance across the four countries using around 20 comparable indicators of performance, from patient satisfaction to ambulance response times.

    The overall conclusion was that performance across all four countries had improved at more or less similar rates over the 2000s as a result of the huge boost in funding when government investment in the NHS doubled in cash terms in all countries.

    No one country consistently lagged behind or outperformed another, once relative starting points were taken into account. A foreigner would be much more struck by the similarities than the differences.

  61. So its gone from “the Assembly has failed at everything, abolish the assembly, abolish the assembly, abolish”. To “we have longer waiting times than England, abolish the assembly, abolish the assembly, abolish the assembly”

    The Assembly is with us and Welsh people are satisfied with the Assembly and the Assembly hasn’t failed Wales. If the ATAWP are so keen to get rid of failed bodies it would be less hypocritical of them to start with Westminster. Westminster has failed on health and immigration, so come on ATWAP party prove you are not racialist and campaign on the equal footing of abolishing Westminster and the Assembly. Otherwise you are just closeted English Nationalists hiding behind a keyboard pretending you are not really nationalists because you say you are Welsh.

  62. Rhobat, others might get away with pretending to misread something but you are too intelligent to be allowed that. You know very well that the reason why the Assembly should be abolished is not ‘because it was established’ but ‘because it should never have been established.’

    That it was approved by a bare majority in a referendum does not alter its superfluity. The fact that voters approve of a bad decision makes it no less a bad decision. In fact, voters have often made bad decisions – and reversed them later when better informed. They have the right to do so. That is what democracy means, not that a bad decision becomes irreversible.

    The only things proved by the 2011 referendum is that the majority of the Welsh people did not understand or care enough about it to bother to vote, and that the lobby with a huge superiority in money and organisation is bound to triumph over a handful of opponents with neither.

    It is interesting that you choose to quote ‘free prescription charges’ as your best example of an Assembly measure that benefits the people of Wales. In fact, they were always – and presumably still are in England – free for the poorest and those with long-term conditions. So the ‘free prescription charges’ in Wales benefit only the better off. Surely the Welsh health budget would have been better spent on primary healthcare, emergency services, and cancer treatment for all rather than on subsidising the better off, most of whom are ready, willing, and able to pay a small charge for occasional medicines.

    So, ‘free prescription charges.’ far from being of benefit to the people of Wales, are a politically-motivated diversion of limited resources that work to the detriment of most, perhaps all, and show a definite want of priority.

    Philip, once again, your points have already been answered. Please reread the last comment carefully. The article to which you refer seems to be based entirely on the Nuffield Report, the reference for which was included in that last comment, and neither the article nor the Report says there is no difference between the health services, since both go on to discuss those differences in some detail.

  63. John

    Once again you are refusing to answer the questions put to you or to accept facts that conflict with your view / obsession. The Nuffield report makes it very clear there is no difference. Should I believe an independent report I can check, or should I believe someone who claims they have the “facts” but consistently refuses to provide those “facts” but just keeps repeating instead the party line “assembly has failed”.

    You have claimed I said Westminster had misruled England. Can you please point out where I made such a claim. If you are going to misquote me from this message board do you think anyone will believe any of your other claims

  64. December 2015 was the wettest December on record for Wales, with 217% the average rainfall for the month. Wales had 359.1 mm u of rain in December and England a mere 137 mm of rain. Yet it was England, with it’s lack of flood defensives that suffered from flooding. Guess the praise for the assembly for building up Wales flood defensives will be completely ignored by John and the rest of the ATWAP mob

  65. Philip, you cannot complain that you have not been answered if you do not bother to read the answers! The difference in waiting times is a fact. The difference in cancer care policies is a fact. The difference in spending levels is a fact. The diversion of resources to subsidise prescriptions for the better off is a fact. The waste of resources on a reorganisation of the Welsh NHS necessitating a subsequent re-reorganisation is a fact. The Nuffield Report is a fact. The difference in GDP and GVA is a fact. The PISA scores are a fact. The proposal to waste money on local government reorganisation is a fact. All these are facts

    Most of these facts were mentioned on this thread weeks ago. Anyone who does not believe them has had ample opportunity to check.

    We have had no counter-facts in response. Instead we have had flat denials of the facts, an astonishing claim that the Nuffield Report says the direct opposite to what it does say, false accusation that someone who does not belong to any party is a spokesman for a party the existence of which he only became aware in the course of this thread, and insulting sneers like ‘democracy denier’ and ‘English nationalist.’

    What does it say about the Assembly that this is the best case that can be made in its defence?

    To repeat, ‘Westminster misrule’ is a direct quote from your own comment of 23 December – if you cannot be bothered to read anyone else’s contributions properly, you should at least pay attention to your own!

    Grant, it might be an idea if you read what has already been written before you honour us with your witticisms. In particular, note that the substantive case for abolition is stated clearly in the comment of 5 January and has remained unchanged since 1997. Other issues are mentioned only because they were raised by your co-devolutionists who keep shifting their lines of attack.

  66. John

    Again you haven’t provided any “fact”, again you just keep repeating you have provided “facts”. When asked for “facts” to back up your claim you told us to find the “facts” ourselves. When I, and others, did look for “facts” ourselves they do not back up your claim.

    The Nuffield Report states “No one country consistently lagged behind or outperformed another, once relative starting points were taken into account. A foreigner would be much more struck by the similarities than the differences.” That is a “fact” we had to find for ourselves because you would not provide “facts”.

    The downwards trend in the Welsh economy, and the similar downwards trend in the economy of the poorer regions of England. Started before the devolution referendum. What next John, are you going to blame WWII and the extinction of the dinosaurs on the Assembly.

    My post of the 23 December is
    “We all know that our economy is the lowest of the UK, we all know that it was the lowest of the UK before the WAG was set up, we all know Westminster and the Welsh Office failed Wales every time. Direct Westminster misrule failed Wales is well known.”

    Your post was
    “Regarding the economy, the issue is not whether there is a historical difference between England and Wales – despite both being equally subject to what you insist on calling Westminster ‘misrule’”

    I never said England was subject to Westminster misrule, that is you misquoting me

    The Nuffield Trust report, which I have quoted and have given a link to the report on the 5th January, is there for all to see. Let me repeat my quote from this post

    “No one country consistently lagged behind or outperformed another, once relative starting points were taken into account. A foreigner would be much more struck by the similarities than the differences”. That is a direct quote from the Nuffield Report.

    Yes you can cherry pick from this report, Wales doesn’t hit its waiting time, but you can also cherry pick and find areas where Wales outperforms England.

    Basically your argument that the Assembly should be abolished because it has failed Wales on health is complete tosh. Anyone who has read the report will release the Abolish Wales Party line on the Assembly failing on health is a load of tosh.

    You argument that the Assembly has failed on the economy is also a complete load of tosh. Anyone who has checked out the economical figures for Wales, and also the poorer regions of England, releases that.

    Basically your argument is that the assembly has failed, you have given the facts, but are unwilling to give your “facts” again. And if we persist in asking for “facts” we are told a quick 5 minute google search will reveal your “facts”. When those “facts”, ie the Nuffield report and the state of the Welsh economy do not match your “facts”, you just keep repeating you have the “facts” and those are the “facts” we should believe.

    When Rhobat mentioned free prescriptions you scoffed that off, because they are also free in England. Absolutely unbelievable statement to make. Anyone over the age of 16 should be aware of the fuss free prescriptions in Wales had in England. Yet you seem to be completely unaware, or more likely unwilling to accept that.

    No offense meant John but you are acting like a child who has been caught with his hand in the sweetie jar. I have countered every argument you have made and so far you have been unable to prove your claim. You have had ample opportunity to prove your claim, you have refused to do so, despite being asked by Rhobat, Grant and myself.

    Basically your argument for abolishing the Assembly is 1) It should never have been set up in the first place and you don’t like Wales having any say in how we run things here 2) It’s not hitting it’s hospital waiting times. So John, basically you don’t have any argument for abolishing the Assembly

  67. John

    Philip has quoted from the Nuffield Report on the 5th January, there is no real difference between the health services in any of the UK countries. I have read the Nuffield Report, it makes it VERY clear there is no major difference but each country has it’s own unique circumstances and there are differences in each of the 4 countries. Your assumption that because there are differences the English way must be naturally superior to anything the Welsh can do is not an argument against the Assembly

  68. @JWR

    Your argument is:

    The Assembly should be abolished because it should never have been established in the first place.

    This is not an argument but a tautology. It should not be because it should never have been. Your difficulty is that the people of Wales did not follow your sage advice. By a small majority, they voted in its existence. In a subsequent referendum, they authorised its becoming a legislative body. Much as it may trouble you, it is not your opinion that defines our political institutions but rather the will of the majority. Now it is one thing to say that you disagree with the majority as is your right, it is quite another to say we are wrong; the latter is arrogant.

    You made your argument in 1997 and you lost. No doubt you made it again in 2011 and you lost. You may not like the result but that was that result. I did not like the result in 1979 and I disagreed with it but I accepted and respected the verdict of the people of Wales.

    Now you have a number of options before you. If you believe we were all mistaken in the referenda that established and strengthened the Assembly, then you can campaign for its abolition. The trouble is that you know that that is not a winnable campaign. Because of the two votes that showed increased support for the Assembly (1979: 50.3% in favour, 49.7% against – 2011: 63.5% in favour, 36.5%), it has now a growing momentum towards strengthening its powers. So the second option is to respect the verdict of the people and argue for your politics within the new political context.

    A third option is to admit defeat, walk away and enjoy your leisure time, be that tending your garden, listening to opera or surfing off Cardigan Bay. I suspect however that you will choose none of these. If your contribution to this blog is anything to go by, then you take up the role of King Lear and rage against the storm on the heath:

    “…I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
    I never gave you kingdom, call’d you children,
    You owe me no subscription: then let fall
    Your horrible pleasure: here I stand, your slave,
    A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man:
    But yet I call you servile ministers,
    That have with two pernicious daughters join’d
    Your high engender’d battles ‘gainst a head
    So old and white as this. O! O! ’tis foul!

    So stay close to your phone, JWR. It’s only a matter of time before you get a call from the RSC.

  69. So, once again, we have all the items listed in the comment of 12 January illustrated perfectly: ‘flat denials of the facts’ – tick; ‘an astonishing claim that the Nuffield Report says the direct opposite to what it does say’ –tick; ‘false accusation that someone who does not belong to any party is a spokesman for a party the existence of which he only became aware in the course of this thread’ – tick; ‘and insulting sneers’ – tick.

    To this may be added the misrepresentation of claiming that a previous comment said prescription charges were free in England. It did not. Anyone who says otherwise only has to scroll up and read a little.

    Then again, why bother? There is simply no arguing with people so desperate who feel they must resort to such devices. Further repetition would be not only tedious but pointless. Cognitive psychologists speak of ‘confirmation bias,’ a state in which people suppress or ignore information which contradicts their world view. A couple of the devolutionists on this thread have provided textbook examples. If their response – so predictable – is to make the same accusation the other way, there is a very simple method of ascertaining on which side objective truth is to be found…

    Anyone sufficiently interested can, if they wish, read the facts for themselves in the previous comments and in the Nuffield Report, among other places, and can, if so minded, verify them easily by doing their own online research. Far from trying to counter the propaganda of one side with the propaganda of another, the whole purpose of these comments is to encourage people to look and think for themselves. Then truth will out.

    Finally, here is some friendly advice for any devolutionists who might want to construct a more reasoned defence of the Assembly. You need to choose your ground carefully. In particular, the lesson of this thread is that arguing on the basis of future hopes is safer ground for you than arguing on the basis of the Assembly’s past record or present performance. Arguing on the basis of future hopes, however extravagant and ill-founded, proved a successful strategy in 1997, because it has in general the advantage that there is no data to contradict those hopes. The same cannot be said of arguing on the basis of past or present performance. Anyone who chooses the past or present as his ground on which to fight for the Assembly will end up ignoring things like the waiting times, cancer policies, health spending levels, GDP, GVA, PISA scores, etc, etc, or denying that there is a difference, or even implying that the figures for Wales are better than they are relative to the comparative figures for England. See above for examples.

    It is not unpatriotic to point out that Wales has problems. What is unpatriotic is to prevent the solution of those problems by denying that they exist.

  70. John

    Actually anyone who has bothered to read the Nuffield Report, easy found on any web search, will see it does not back up your claim that the Assembly has failed Wales.

    One again John is distorting facts to fit his political agenda. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

    One again John is refusing to accept facts that anyone can find. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

    Yes, the NHS in Wales is not meeting hospital waiting times. But READ the Nuffield Report. “No one country consistently lagged behind or outperformed another, once relative starting points were taken into account”. That is not me, that is not your buddies at the ATWAP, that is a quote from the Nuffield Report. Which, again, anyone can find and read for themselves. I HAVE ACTUALLY READ THE NUFFIELD REPORT IT DOES NOT BACK UP YOUR CLAIM. Yes, there are problems with the NHS in Wales, yes there are problems with waiting times. But there are also problems in England (ambulance waiting times, staff being told to fudge the 999 / 112 call times, patients having to sleep on trolleys in hospital corridors, even in cupboards due to NHS crisis in England). Note these are problems in England not in Wales.

    See links

    We have problems in Wales, but to blame all our problems on the WAG and to claim that the miracle cure to all our problems is to go crawling back to England and say we can’t cope because we are not hitting our hospital waiting times is childish drivel. I am one of the majority in Wales who will not buy the ATWAP snake oil.

    We inherited a top heavy, public service economy and our economy is the same as it always was with the rest of the UK, but private sector employment in Wales is actually increasing.

    See link

    No one is denying there are problems in Wales, but now many of these have actually been caused by the WAG. We differ, you see all the problems has being caused by the WAG. I see the WAG has having done a lot of good for Wales and a positive step forward. You see the WAG has a plot to destroy the UK, and it must be stopped at all costs.

    Our health service is in the same dismal state of the health service in the rest of the UK. We need to work together to solve our problems and not get into infighting with the extremists of the ATWAP.

    From your previous posts you are able to read and identify posts on this page by date. So before you do anything else tell me where I said that Westminster had failed England. I have asked you this several times before for this. You have ignored this request, WHY?

  71. Rhobat, just be clear, since both were published at the same time, the comment of 18 January did not apply to yours of 17 January. Even a wrong argument has merit when it is Shakespearean!

    Yet you miss the point: Lear was ultimately in the right – mad, of course, but still right.

    It would have made no difference if two thirds of a third of the population said they thought Goneril and Regan were doing a good job. Lear would still have been right and they would have been wrong. It is not ‘arrogant’ to say one is right when one is. It is honest – and perhaps not without a higher virtue when one is in a minority and has nothing to gain from telling an inconvenient truth.

    However, you are correct about one thing: it is highly unlikely that the Assembly will be abolished – indeed, far more likely that its powers will increase until it achieves an autonomy indistinguishable from independence. Congratulations, Rhobat, you won. That does not change the fact that you are wrong, but you still won.

    A few comments on a blog will not alter that. Their only purpose is to record that there were some who warned of the consequences and did not go along with the crowd.

    The more appropriate quote would be ‘The weight of this sad time we must obey; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.’

    While it is not impossible that a new leader will arise who might yet reverse the slide, it will not be an old man who gave up on politics years ago, who saw no point in wasting his breath in 2011, and who has embraced your option of ‘garden, opera, and surfing in Cardigan Bay’ quite literally – although it is surprisingly difficult to hire a wetsuit, size large, in Llangrannog.

    Philip, you seem very worked up about being accused of saying England was’ misruled’ by Westminster. In fact, if you check, you will note that is not quite what was said. The curious thing is why what seems a rather trivial point is so important to you. Are you actually arguing that Wales was ‘misruled’ by Westminster but England was not? If so, why does this matter so much to you? It seems odd.

    As for the rest, anyone reading the Nuffield Report will see that it confirms that the difference in waiting times is clear and unambiguous – and, indeed, emphasised.

  72. John the only person here refusing to accept..facts that conflict with their world view is you. You asked as to check the facts ourselves, because you couldn’t find any. When the Nuffield report was found you maintain this actually backs up your claim, anyone who has read the report will disagree with you..

    When you asked for examples you ignored my comments about improved flood defensive and the comment about free are rubbish because you claim prescriptions are also free in England. Unbelievable. Really unbelievable. Mind blowingly unbelievable. John must be the only person in the UK who is unaware of the row that erupted in the English media over free prescriptions in Wales

  73. @ John

    “Philip, you seem very worked up about being accused of saying England was’ misruled’ by Westminster. In fact, if you check, you will note that is not quite what was said.”

    I didn’t need to check, I know that is not what I said.

    While the Nuffield Report may be clear on waiting times, it is also clear on the issues facing the health service in England. Finding one aspect of the Nuffield Report that supports your claim while ignoring the rest of the report because it refutes your claim seems to be the only reason to abolish the WAG and using this as an excuse to abolish the WAG is just bad science.

    The economy – the Welsh downturn started before devolution, actually it started in 1996 and has been on the same downwards trend since, has are the poorest regions of England . The Welsh economy is in the same state, with the poorest English regions, as it as always been. But we are getting away from relying on the public section. Since my links from above. Again using the state of our economy to abolish the WAG is bad science.

    PISA results – PISA only started in 2007, so there is no data to compare our education system post and pre-devolution. However PISA point out that the downwards slide in the PISA ranking tables of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales is largely due to new countries taking part in PISA. The alleged failure of the education system in Wales rests on the PISA ranking, while ignoring that our slide and the downwards slide of England, Ireland and Scotland are due to new countries taking part and pushing us and the rest of the UK down. Yes, our education needs improving, but the basis of attacking the deteriorating PISA positions of the UK magically disappears when you realise the downwards slide of all of the UK is largely based on new countries taking part and pushing us down the table, and not because of anything that is happening with the education system in the UK. If the WAG hadn’t been set up our education position would still be the same. In the UK there has been criticism of the way the PISA tests are conducted.

    Yes, our education system needs improving. In my last year of school, l1979, we were told if we wanted to go to university in England we would need an extra O level than an English school because WJEC O levels were inferior to English O levels. That was in 1979, 20 years before the WAG was set up. The ATWAP party are just looking for excuses to shout “Assembly has failed, abolish the Assembly, abolish the Assembly”, but please don’t look too closely at our facts.

  74. Phillip, your last comment shows that, when you make the effort, you are capable of raising points worthy of discussion, which makes it all the more frustrating that you spoil your argument by also saying things like the difference in waiting times ‘seems to be the only reason to abolish WAG’ which suggest you have forgotten or not read what has been said before.

    The Nuffield Report provides clear evidence of the waiting lists gap but by no means constitutes the whole case against the Assembly’s health policy. In many respects it is notable for what it does not say, perhaps diplomatically. It does not, for example, discuss the effects of diverting resources to reorganisations and to subsidising prescription charges for the better off.

    Wales has indeed been over-reliant on the public sector for some time. No one can blame the Assembly for that because it is a historical factor. However, the Assembly can be blamed for failing to develop the indigenous private sector over the 16 years it has had the responsibility and the opportunity to do so. Very slight recent improvements in the statistics are flattering because they start from a low base and also reflect more of an adjustment of the public sector to the realities of the post-2008 world than any real progress within the private sector.

    Although British education in general has serious problems, the point of the PISA scores in this context is that they illustrate a definite gap between Wales and England, two broadly similar nations. While you are right – yes, you are right – that there are no PISA scores for the period before 1999 that can enable us to make a proper comparison, neither is there any other data indicating such a gap when education in both England and Wales was the direct responsibility of Westminster. The failures of the WJEC are not indicative of a broader failure of policy relative to England.

    Going back to the original purpose of this thread – local government reorganisation – the establishment of any new level of government demands, in order to justify its costs, positive evidence of positive improvement in the lives of the people that could not have been achieved without it. In the course of dozens of posts, not only has no such evidence been presented but the evidence that has been presented – especially on waiting lists, health spending, PISA scores, GDP, GVA, and the diversion of resources to unnecessary reorganisations – suggests the opposite.

    Grant, you might find things less ‘unbelievable’ if you actually read them. The point about prescription charges, itself due to failure to read properly, was answered on 18 January.

  75. John

    Once again you are refusing to accept facts that conflict with your world view. Waiting times are just one aspect of the Nuffield Report. See my links, posted 19 January, which highlight problems with the English health system. You are clutching at one aspect of a report while ignoring aspect which conflict with your political stance. That may be good politics but it is bad science.

    Yes, PISA scores indicate a gap between England and Wales, but was that gap there before devolution. My experience in education in the UK says yes, there was a gulf between English and Welsh education systems before devolution. English universities treating Welsh O levels as inferior to English O levels. So education in Wales is in the same position has it was before devolution.

    “However, the Assembly can be blamed for failing to develop the indigenous private sector over the 16 years it has had the responsibility and the opportunity to do so.” Obliviously you did not read my post, or bother to check the link I posted on the 19 January. The WAG has increased private sector jobs in Wales and is encouraging the growth of private sector jobs.

    John your ATWAP case against the Assembly rests and parroting the same tired old lines.

  76. John your most logical reason for wanting to abolish the assembly is you don’t like it, there may have been 2 referendums on the assembly, but they should just have listened to John instead. You cannot prove that the health service is any better or worse in England, conveniently for the ATWAP the Nuffield Report doesn’t go into that, it just says there is no difference between England and Wales. On education the evidence seems to be our educational system was in the same sorry state, or worse before the assembly. On the economy we are in the same position, but see links provided by other posters we are moving away from relying on public service employment.

    In short your agruement is ignore or the facts, just listen to the ATWAP and abolish the assembly and overnight our health system with improve and be better than England’s, the Welsh economy will overtake London and our educational system will be the envy of the world. I think the ATWAP should hail a black cab and take a ride back to reality street. The English have paid to set it up and financing it and pulling the strings of its leaders, I am sure their English paynasters won’t begrudge them that expense

  77. The point about prescription charges was answered on 18 Jan

    John again unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable. You are claiming prescription charges in England are the same as in Wales? I have no idea of your age John but I suspect you are very young. Again you have said you have answered a question knowing full well you haven’t. Are you seriously claiming there is no difference between English and Welsh prescription charges? Instead of claiming you have answered that question why not answer it here.

    What about my comment on Welsh flood defensives. England has been flooded, Wales has had a lot more rain than England but we haven’t had the major problem with flooding that’s happened in England.

    The ATWAP seem to be in over their heads on this thread. As this is moderated I can only say absolutely unbelievable, I would like to add a couple of good old Anglo Saxon words to that statement, but will limit myself to absolutely unbelievable

  78. To summarise, there are well-documented differences between England and Wales, in waiting list times, cancer care policies, health spending levels, PISA scores, GDP, GVA, and the diversion of resources in Wales to ill-judged reorganisations and to subsiding prescription charges for the better off.

    These are facts. Most were first mentioned weeks ago. A couple of devolutionists denied them, but they now seem to be beyond dispute.

    Instead, the two devolutionists in question seem – amid the continuing personal insults and misrepresentations of what was said previously which do no honour to their cause – to have fallen back on two alternate lines of defence.

    The first is to say that things are bad in England. That is not the question here. The question here is whether Wales is better relative to England.

    The second is to say that things in Wales were bad before devolution. Again, that is not the question here. The question here is whether things in Wales have improved relative to England over the last 16 years – surely 16 years is time enough to judge an experiment.

    If there is no evidence of such improvement – and improvement greater than the costs of devolution– then devolution must be judged a failure.

    In the course of over 50 generally repetitive posts, not one piece of evidence of substantial improvement of any sort relative to England has been produced, not one. The claim that money has not been spent on flood defences in England is, of course, simply wrong .Those who feel that they must, instead rely on personal insults, misrepresentations, misreading, misattributions, and false accusations of speaking for a party, to cover the total absence of such evidence would do well to take a quiet moment to reflect on the validity of their positions.

  79. John

    In the course of over 50 generally repetitive posts, not one piece of evidence of substantial improvement of any sort relative to England has been produced, not one.

    John I have produced the Nuffield Report, which states “No one country consistently lagged behind or outperformed another”. That is a direct quote from the Nuffield Report. It is a quote that I have repeated constantly on this board. It is a quote you ignore. The Nuffield Report makes it very clear, “No one country consistently lagged behind or outperformed another”. That there are differences in each of the 4 countries of the UK, but “No one country consistently lagged behind or outperformed another”. Again a direct quote from the Nuffield Report. A piece of substantial evidence you chose to ignore or argue that “No one country consistently lagged behind or outperformed another” actually means Wales consistently lagged behind England.

    There are differences between Wales and England in cancer care policies. Again your agreement is that the Welsh policies must be inferior to English policies is nonsensical.

    Well-documented differences between England and Wales in PISA scores. Again the first PISA scores are from 2007, and show a gap between Wales and England in education. You are now admit that the education gap existed before devolution but somehow this gap is now worse. Again where is your proof.

    There are well-documented differences between England and Wales, in GDP, GVA. Yes and there always has been. Only 3 English regions actually make a net contribution to the treasury. 2 barely and London which, on its own, supports the rest of the UK. At the start of devolution Wales inherited a top heavy economy, which had Soviet style levels of public employment. This has changed and in Wales the private sector as increased. Again see my link, again a link which you have chosen to ignore.

    You have been unable to prove that the WAG has failed on the health service. Just keep parroting “waiting times, abolish the assembly”, while ignoring everything else.

    You have been unable to prove that the WAG cause the economical downturn in Wales. Difficult to prove as that actually started on Westminster’s watch. Again you just keep parroting “GDP, GVA, abolish the assembly”‘

    You have been unable to prove that WAG policies caused the education gap between Wales and England. Again you just keep parroting “PISA, abolish the assembly.”‘

    John I work in management, I don’t know if you work or are still in school, but in management one of the first rules is to work with the facts that exist not as you would like them. If you want to be treated like an adult please prove your facts, prove that the WAG caused the education gap between England and Wales. Prove that the WAG caused the economical downturn in Wales. There are cause and effects and so far John it has been you who have refused to provide any facts.

  80. I have to repeat myself, yet, again, unbelievable, absolutely mind blowingly unbelievable. The continual misrepresentation and deliberate misquoting is unbelievable, absolutely mind blowing unbelievable. I did not claim the English hadn’t spent money on the flood defensives. England failed to protect it’s citizens from flooding, whereas the WAG successfully protected it’s people from flooding. Just as it provides free prescriptions. The fanaticism of the ATWAP is unbelievable, can’t counter free prescriptions in Wales, no problem to the ATWAP, just say they are free in England too. Can’t counter England failure to provide food protection, just say well England spent money on flood defensive too. I am sure that is a great comfort to all those English people who had to be evacuated from their homes by boat

    Unbelievable, absolutely mind blowing unbelievable

  81. Just to be clear, Philip, which facts are you still denying? Since you claim to have read the Nuffield Report, you must accept what it says about waiting times and health spending. Your attempts to explain the differences in PISA scores, GDP, and GVA suggest you are no longer trying to deny those differences exist. The differences in cancer policies, and the waste of public resources on reorganisations and subsidising prescription charges for the better off are well-publicised Assembly policies even you surely cannot deny.

    That covers all the items listed weeks ago. So, after much unnecessary quibbling, we have reached the point where the facts listed must be recognised as facts. We could have had a far more interesting discussion if you had admitted as much last year.

    Despite your claim to be against cherry picking, you have selected one quote from the Nuffield Report which is contradicted by the detailed statistics elsewhere in the Report. This why it was said, much earlier, that the Report’s authors were rather diplomatic in their interpretation of the facts, but it is the facts that matter, not the authors’ opinions.

    Please do not confuse courtesy in not challenging your anecdotal evidence about the WJEC with any position on a pre-1999 Anglo-Welsh education gap. Do you know of any solid data on that point? As for the effect of Assembly policies on Welsh education, that has been admitted even by an Assembly Minister of Education, as mentioned before.

    Your point about the employment figures has already been answered: recent annual figures flatter because they start from a low base. Your link was to a typical puff piece which reprints selected figures without analysis. Since you mention management experience, it would be interesting to know the name of the organisation where managers are not expected to understand that 7% of a larger figure may be more than 12% of a smaller figure.

    Finally, comparing Wales with English regions misses the whole point: English regions do not have the diversion of taxpayers’ funds from direct public services to a nine-figure administrative overhead!

    It is hard to get precise figures of the cost of devolution, but these are the Assembly’s own figures in response to a 2009 FOI request:

    Be honest, did you realise it was that much? Are you not just a little shocked? Does no small part of you not wonder what else could have been done with that money?

  82. John

    Again you are resorting to misrepresentation. My quote from the Nuffield Report is not cherry picking, it is the main opening statement of the Nuffield Report. Again anyone who is reading this blog will be able to check that.

    Again John I work in a superintendent / managerial role, for my job I need to be objective and consider all the facts and not fixate about facts that agree with my point of view. Any good manager will do the same, consider all the facts.

    I read the Nuffield Report, but I am not fixated on one aspect of the Nuffield Report while ignoring aspects that conflict. Again and again I have quoted the Nuffield Report. Yet me repeat, again and again I have quoted the Nuffield Report. To fixate on one aspect of the Nuffield Report that meets the ATWAP obsession of chanting “assembly has failed, abolish the assembly” This may be good politics but it is bad science and bad management.

    Again I have answered your concerns education and the GVA. On education it seems probable that the education gap existed prior to 1999, you have not been able to provide any facts that show there was no gap prior to devolution but there is a lot of evidence from people like myself who went through our education system in the 70s, 80s and 90s, that the gap has always existed.

    Similar with GVA.

    In short you have no facts to back up your claim, but just keep parroting that you have facts.

    No offense but I would not buy a used car from the ATWAP. A fly by night political party made up of UKIP and BNP rejects who have failed at every political endeavour they have taken part in and are now badly masquerading has liberals working in the best interest of Wales but only interested in selling Wales down the river. The ATWAP – we have failed at everything now vote for us and let us fail Wales big.

  83. So which organisation is it, Philip? Is it one of the ones to whom it is necessary to write a dozen times repeating the same facts because they never read their correspondence?

    Is it an insurance company? Or the complaints department of a rail franchise? Or a government bureaucracy? That would explain a great deal.

    For you clearly have not read or paid attention to what has been said, more than once, in previous comments. Sorry about the ‘parroting’ – an expression you have used several times without appreciating the irony of doing so – but if you insist on repeating the same mistakes, you must expect repeated correction.

    For example, why do you insist on repeating that someone who is a member of no political party speaks for a party the existence of which he only became aware in the course of this thread? Or are you denying this too?

    More importantly, even you must see that it is illogical for you to complain of the ‘parroting’ of the very facts you deny that you have been given.

    That said, at least your posts have at least given a legitimate pretext to draw further attention to those facts, the Assembly’s List of Shame: the differences in (1) waiting times, (2) cancer policies, (3) PISA scores, (4) GDP and GVA; and the diversion of money from direct service provision to (5) an ill-advised reorganisation of the health service necessitating subsequent re-reorganisation, (6) subsidising prescription charges for the better off, (7) the proposed £250,000,000 reorganisation of local government, and (8) the nine-figure administrative cost of the Assembly itself

    …to which may be added, as of last week, (9) dodgy land deals, for which even Carwyn Jones felt obliged to apologise. The List keeps getting longer.

    These are all facts – well established, generally accepted, and easily verifiable facts. You may have noticed the absence of more experienced and informed devolutionists – of whom there are many haunting this website – riding to your rescue with evidence to the contrary. This is because they know that these are facts and would not risk their credibility by denying them.

    So, to repeat, which, if any, of these facts are you actually still denying? Please be precise.

    You have offered no facts of your own in response. The opinion of the author of a report is an opinion not a fact – especially when contradicted by the hard data elsewhere in that report. Nor, with respect, is a personal anecdote about the WJEC a substitute for hard data. Again, do you have such data?

    You like to refer to science. The basis of science is the experimental method. For the last 16 years we have had the perfect conditions for an experiment, two broadly similar nations next to each other, which has produced no evidence of Wales closing the gap with England. In designing experiments, real scientists set parameters of success and failure. A real scientist would admit that this experiment has failed.

  84. John

    Before you respond to my posts can you please do me the courtesy of reading my posts first. I have not disagree with the issue of waiting times, etc.

    I, and other posters, have asked you for hard facts and hard data. You have always refused to provide any facts and rubbish any facts that don’t fit with your obsession. Your response to Grants comment about flood defensives and Rhobat comment about free prescriptions.

    Over the course of some 50 odd posts you have NEVER been able to provide any facts or hard ata. A real scientist would consider all the facts. A real manager would have to consider all the facts. You constantly ignore facts that don’t support your anti-WAG obsession.

    The opening statement of the Nuffield Report is according to you cherry picking the report. So quoting the summary of the Nuffield Report that there is no difference is “cherry picking”

    You have been unable to provide any hard data on the PISA results and similarly with the GDP and GVA.

    I repeat a real scientist or a real manager would consider all the facts. Not only are you not considering all the facts, you are distorting existing facts (the Nuffield Report for one), to fit your political agenda.

    In designing experiments, real scientists set parameters of success and failure. A real scientist would admit that this experiment has failed. The ATWAP have gone over the course of some 50 odd posts from their chant of “the assembly has failed at everything” to “the assembly hasn’t made much of an improvement in 16 years so lets go back to the wonderful 500 years of Westminster misrule”

  85. This has become too tedious. Philip, all your points are answered by previous comments.Please read them carefully. Are you or you not denying that a gap between exists between England and Wales in PISA scores, GDP, and GVA? If so, look up the original data for yourself. Do not expect others to do your research for you.

    Otherwise, the comment of 5 February stands as the final summary of the facts, most of which were first given months ago – subject to the erratum that it should also have included the difference in health spending levels, mentioned in Nuffield, so that the Assembly’s List of Shame is now 10 points – and let your comments stand as the best case that can be made in defence of the Assembly’s record. That speaks for itself.

  86. John

    This exercise in futility, aka trying to get the ATWAP to comprehend facts that conflict with their somewhat narrow world order view, hasn’t become tedious it was tedious weeks ago and while I have been fed up of hitting my head against a brick wall trying to explain facts the ATWAP find uncomfortable to them I am not prepared to stop just because they refuse to listen to facts and instead continue to distort facts to fit their own political agenda.

    I can explain this to the ATWAP but I cannot comprehend it for them, only they can do that and so far they have bitterly resisted comprehending the facts.

    1) The health system, the Nuffield Report, in its opening statement, makes it clear there is no difference in the health system in any of the UK countries. Yet according to the ATWAP this opening statement, the crux of the Nuffield Report, is “Cherry Picking” and just keep parroting “waiting times” whilst ignoring the rest of the Nuffield Report.

    2) On PISA, yes there is a gap between England and Wales. But PISA only started in 2007 and the evidence from people who went through the education system in Wales prior to devolution is this gap existed before devolution. PISA is also very clear that the downwards movement of ALL UK countries in the PISA listening is due to the change in the countries taking PISA changing. New Countries, which general have a better education system than the UK have joined, while some countries have left. To use the present PISA data for statistical analysis is impossible due to the constantly changing line-up of the countries taking part in it. So the education gap between England and Wales could well have existed before devolution but the only data the ATWAP can get, or are prepared to admit to, if the PISA results, which only started in 2007. So how can the ATWAP blame the WAG for an educational gap they inherited from Westminster?

    3) A news flash from the ATWAP is there is a GDP and GVP gap between England and Wales. Well a news flash to the ATWAP, this gap HAS ALWAYS EXISTED. Trying to blame Wales GDP on the WAG is like trying to blame the extinction of the dinosaurs on the WAG, its nonsensical.

    I have already provided a link that shows that private sector employment is increasing in Wales and we are less reliant on the public sector.

    Here are a few quotes about the Welsh GVP

    “faster economic growth in Wales than every other part of UK”

    “But Wales and north west England showed the biggest growth at 3.4%”

    “The highest per head growth in 2013 was in the North West and Wales. Within the North West, Greater Manchester saw the largest increase at 4.1%. In 2012 business in Greater Manchester added £19,905 to the UK economy for each resident, while in 2013 this increased to £20,724. This was the second largest increase at NUTS2 (sub-regional) level in 2013. Comparatively, Merseyside, had the lowest growth of the five NUTS2 sub-regions that make up the North West region, seeing an increase of 2.5% in 2013.”

    And here are links to the sites:–income-approach-%2Fdecember-2015%2Fstb-regional-gva-dec-2015.html&usg=AFQjCNErTNYC1LzziO05FSImfzZHI0730g–income-approach-/december-2014/sty-regional-gva-interactive-analysis-tools.html

    So the ATWAP claim the WAG has failed Wales over the economy is just pure, undiluted hog-wash. If you don’t investigate the ATWAP facts and realise it was actually Westminster who failed Wales on the economy. The WAG has seen 1) An increase in private sector employment 2) An increase in employment 3) The GVP of Wales is growing compared to the most English regions.

    So in summary,
    1) Claiming that the WAG has failed on health simply because of waiting times, while rubbishing the Nuffield Report show the complete moral bankruptcy of the ATWAP and its complete lack of concern about the future of Wales and the future of our children by the ATWAP

    2) Claiming that PISA results show the WAG has failed on education, while ignoring evidence that the education gap existed prior to devolution show the complete moral bankruptcy of the ATWAP and its complete lack of concern about the future of Wales and the future of our children by the ATWAP

    3) Claiming the WAG is responsible the GDP of Wales being lower than England is the result of WAG policy, ignores the facts that 1) our GDP has always been lower than England, 2) The WAG has increased employment in Wales 3) The WAG has increased private sector employment in Wales, 4) The WAG has seen our GDP grow while most English regions has seen theirs collapse – all of these show the complete moral bankruptcy of the ATWAP and its complete lack of concern about the future of Wales and the future of our children by the ATWAP

    While I have, yet again, had to explain well known facts to the ATWAP, doubtless once again they will parrot “waiting times – abolish the assembly”, “PISA, abolish the assembly”, “GDP, abolish the assembly”

  87. In an effort to start on a positive note, full marks to you, Philip, for researching the original GVA statistics, but, yet again, you have failed to read properly what you are given.

    Table 2 is devastating. It shows that Wales had a GVA per head of £9,800 per head in 1997 which grew to £17,600 in 2014. This sounds impressive until we see the same figure for our next door neighbour grew from £13,700 to £25,400 in the same period. To be honest, it actually comes as a surprise that the gap has widened that much.

    The Assembly likes quoting annual growth figures because –as already explained – percentages flatter when there is a low base. Yet they cannot disguise the fact that Wales is not only still bottom of the league – it has never been contested that it was – but is now, after 16 years of devolution, further from the top than ever.

    You keep referring to a pre-devolution ‘education gap’ despite producing no evidence that such a gap existed, let alone quantifying it

    Finally, you keep referring to a political party when it has been made clear, several times, in this thread that the person with whom you are attempting discussion belongs to none. Without wishing to be rude, you are coming across as almost deliberately obtuse on points like that. Please take it as friendly advice that it would actually strengthen your credibility if you admitted error.

    Your other points have already been answered in previous comments.

  88. John

    Once again you are distorting facts to meet the political agenda of your party. You are comparing the GVA for Wales with that of London, whilst ignoring the dire situation in the North East, Cornwall etc. The GVP growth of the UK is nearly all down to London, only 3 English regions actually make contributions to the treasury, of those two barely, all other English (and by extension UK) regions are overshadowed by the dynamo of London. Comparing the figures for Wales (the links I provided the 9th Feb), shows that the GVP of Wales (and the North West) is increasing compared to other regions.

    For education if you claim the educational gap between Wales and England existed prior to devolution then you should prove that point. My own experience, and experience from other people who were educated in Wales prior to devolution is the education gap already existed.

    Once again the ATWAP have tied themselves in knots. Once again the ATWAP have shown they are only interested in preserving the Union at whatever cost to Wales. Devolution in Wales must be stopped simply because it threatens the Union. In a UK where devolution is an increasing aspect of the political landscape, with devolution for English cities, Cornwall’s continual demand for devolution and the progress of devolution in Scotland and Wales, the ATWAP will regulate Wales to being the permanent basket case of the UK.

    On health, education and the economy I have constantly shown the ATWAPs claim to be nonsensical

  89. Unbelievable, absolutely mind blowing unbelievable. Do the Abolish Wales Party not think that if they claim there is an educational gap that the Abolish Wales Party should actually prove there was an education gap. Or is this another example of the Abolish Wales Party saying that evidence does exist and we need to prove that to our selves, while rubbishing any contrary evidence.

    Also a good post by Philip, I take my hat off to you. You successfully countered every Abolish Wales Party agruement against the Assembly

  90. Philip, your opening sentence shows you did not even read the last comment.

    Also, the claim that there was a pre-devolution education gap is yours and yours alone! If you cannot be bothered to read others’ contributions, please pay attention to your own.

    Your cherry-picking of statistics cannot disguise the fact that the gap between the average person in Wales and the average person in England has grown by over three thousand pounds since 1997.

    So, in the event of any objective reader ever studying this thread, this is where we stand after almost 100 posts…

    Facts critical of the Assembly’s record: the differences in (1) waiting times, (2) cancer policies, (3) health spending levels, (4) PISA scores, and (5) GVA, actually greater than expected; the diversion of money from direct service provision to (6) an ill-advised reorganisation of the health service necessitating subsequent re-reorganisation, (7) subsidising prescription charges for the better off, (8) the proposed £250,000,000 reorganisation of local government, and (9) the nine-figure administrative cost of the Assembly itself; and (10) dodgy land deals,

    Arguments presented in defence of the Assembly’s record, with some paraphrasing: (1) repeated denials of well-established, generally accepted, and easily verifiable facts; (2) denials that the facts were presented combined with complaints about their repetition; (3) no actual evidence of any positive improvements which would have been impossible without an Assembly, despite repeated challenges; (4) personal insults and false accusations of party membership; (5) a lot of cherry-picking; (6) comparisons with selected English regions, when the whole point is that Wales is as much a nation as England, not a region, and should be compared as such; (7) ‘things are also bad in England,’ ignoring the fact that the question under discussion is why they are worse in Wales; (6) ‘things were also bad before devolution,’ ignoring the fact that the question under discussion is why they are now worse then they were relative to our neighbours; (7) ‘diverting resources to subsidise prescriptions for the better off is actually a good thing’; and (8) ‘there are floods in England and not in Wales.’

    Grant, yours is the authentic voice of Welsh devolution.

  91. John

    Yet again this is getting very tedious, yet again John I can explain this to you but yet again John I cannot comprehend it for the Abolish Wales Party.

    In a week in which the The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that NHS Wales to be performing no better or worse than the rest of the UK. Which incidentally backs up the Nuffield Report that none of the UK countries are any worse or better than each other. I am suppose to be the one who is cherry picking. Somehow kettle, pot and black does not cover it. Two, independent reports, give the same result, the Welsh heath service is no better or worse than the health services in the rest of the UK. Yet again the Abolish Wales Party cannot except those reports and insist that the Welsh health service is much worse than the English health service. Yet again John you are cherry picking at facts and have been shown to be cherry picking by the Nuffield Report and now by the OECD report. The Abolish Wales Party are again true to form.

    For PISA see my previous comments. If you are to claim there was an education gap between England and Wales prior to devolution prove it. John, where is your evidence that the WAG has failed on education and this isn’t a result of direct Westminster Misrule. There is evidence that Welsh qualifications were considered inferior to English prior to devolution. In last weeks online letters page of the South Wales Argus, on the subject of “Tory Government”, google it, was a letter in which a reader took Mr Norman Tebbit advice of “get on your bike”, only to be told that English employers didn’t recognize his Welsh qualifications. If the Abolish Wales Party want to claim the education gap only developed after devolution you have had plenty of changes to prove your claim. So far you have failed and just accuse everyone of personally insulting you. John prove your point and I will accept it. So I will ask you, yet again, where is the Abolish Wales Party evidence that the education gap was created by the Welsh Assembly, so far you have not been able to prove that.

    When free prescriptions in Wales were first mentioned the Abolish Wales Party claimed they were free in England too. Now they are claiming that is a waste of resources. To contradict themselves on the same page of a blog highlights their frantic clutching at straws mode. When flooding in England was mention the Abolish Wales Party claimed that England spent money on flood defensives too, ignoring that English families had to be evacuated because of the poor quality of English flood defensives.

    Wales is one of the regions of the UK, like Cornwall, Yorkshire etc. The only way to compare the progress is to do a like for like comparison, which is with other UK regions, Cornwall, Yorkshire etc. Only using this the progress made by the WAG is clear, the WAG has been a success in 1) Creating employment, 2) Increasing the private sector in Wales 3) Increasing the Welsh GVA compared to other UK regions.

    Your cherry picking of statistics cannot disguise the fact that the WAG has benefited Wales.

  92. The only thing demonstrated by the OECD report is, once again, the inability or unwillingness of the mainstream Welsh media to subject Assembly press releases to the most basic critical analysis. Anyone who looks at the actual OECD Report, instead of relying on the BBC headlines, will see immediately why it is irrelevant to the discussion on this thread. Here is the full Report:

    Compare the ten items on Assembly’s List of Shame in the comment of 12 February with the Report. Start with the first and most important item, the difference in waiting times. Turn to the part of the OECD Report that discusses this in detail

    …and you will not find it. It does not exist. The Report contains no substantial discussion of comparative waiting times. Their importance and the existence of differences are mentioned on page 40 but no data follows.

    Nor does it contain substantial discussion of any of the other health-related items on the Assembly’s List of Shame – except health spending levels, where the funding gap is confirmed.

    Like the Nuffield Report, the OECD Report contains contradictions between its subjective opinions and its hard data. Unlike the Nuffield Report, it contains no detailed appraisal of that hard data relating to what is, for most people, the most important indicator of the efficiency of a health service, waiting times.

    It is, in general, and again, unlike the Nuffield Report, a fairly shoddy piece of research, typical of the waste of taxpayers’ money by unaccountable transnational government organisations. It would be interesting to know how much it cost and how it was commissioned.

    Philip, the rest of your last comment pays so little attention to what has been said previously as to make dialogue impossible.

  93. John

    “The only thing demonstrated by the OECD report is, once again, the inability or unwillingness of the mainstream Welsh media to subject Assembly press releases to the most basic critical analysis.”


    Yet again another tedious and pointless exchange with the Abolish Wales Party.

    The OECD report is a report by the worldwide Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). To put it simply , it is not a report manufactured by the Assembly. To put it more simply it is an independent report. The same has the Nuffield Report is an independent report. Both reports make it clear there is no difference in the standard of the health service in Wales, England, Ireland or Scotland. Yes you can cherry pick data from both reports, as the Abolish Wales Party have constantly done, and to make the reports fit your political stance, but the consensus of both reports, that is two independent reports, is the WAG has not failed on health. Yes you can cherry pick, as the Abolish Wales Party do, and say the WAG has failed because of waiting times. But England has failed too. To use the statistics that support the Abolish Wales Party ludicrous claim, while ignoring the mountain of statistics and independent reports that rubbish the Abolish Wales Party ludicrous yet again shows how desperate the Abolish Wales Party are to clutch at straws.

  94. Facts are facts and opinions are opinions, whether in a commissioned report or a pub-level rant.

    Let any objective reader of this thread – should such a person ever exist – decide who has given facts and who only opinions.

  95. John

    I agree completely, let them look at the Nuffield Report and the OECD report in their entirety and not obsess over one aspect of the reports (ie waiting times). Let them look at the PISA statistics that started in 2007 and realize that PISA only started in 2007 and cannot be used to judge the education standard of Wales pre or post devolution. John, should people, people who are prepared to look at the facts and make up their own minds based on the entirety of the facts (and probably laugh at the ludicrous Abolish Wales Party fantasies) are probably 80% of the population of Wales. The other 20% are people who will clutch at any straw, no matter how feeble, such as waiting times, or under the WAG we have had the wettest winter since records began, to chant “abolish the assembly”. Such people are dinosaurs who don’t realise they are extinct.

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