Carnifal Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth carnival was held today for the first time in twelve years. The event was a big success on a bright sunny day. More photos here.

Many small shops around town decorated their windows for the event with prizes given for the best three:
1st Prize - Pretty Flamingo, Pier Street
2nd Prize - T. J. Davies, Terrace Road
3rd Prize - Ffagl Gobaith / Beacon of Hope, Chalybeate Street


Plaid Cymru's women leaders

The recent election of Ceredigion Assembly Member Elin Jones as Deputy leader of the Plaid Cymru group in the Welsh Assembly, alongside Leanne Wood as Party Leader, is welcome for a number of reasons.

Firstly it demonstrates a welcome coming together of two people who recently fought the party's leadership campaign against each other. Secondly it provides the leadership with geographical and linguistic balance. And thirdly, it further solidifies Plaid Cymru’s commitment to the promotion of women.

Almost all the key posts in Plaid Cymru are now filled by females:

Leader: Leanne Wood AM
Deputy Leader: Elin Jones AM
President: Jill Evans MEP
Chair: Helen Mary Jones
Chief Executive: Rhuanedd Richards

Just to provide a little balance, Elfyn Llwyd is the party’s UK Parliamentary Leader. 

People have been scratching their heads to find a party in any country that compares to this. 

Of course, despite efforts, it's not like this throughout the party. Plaid has operated a degree of positive discrimination in its selection of Assembly candidates for years with only limited success. The party's Welsh Assembly group currently consists of four women out of 11 AMs. Clearly more needs to be done.

Those arguing against positive discrimination tend to emphasise the importance of selecting the perceived best candidate for the job. This forgets that ‘the job’ is currently defined by a somewhat adversarial, arguably male-orientated, political world. We need to be thinking in a longer-term, more revolutionary way than that. There's discussion of ways others are trying here.

The real issue for me is the democratic deficit that happens when 50% of the population is grossly under-represented in government. This has a devastating effect on our societies. Of course, there's always the occasional Thatcher, but, in the main, it's very unlikely that we'd have so many wars or that the planet's eco-system would be in such a state if women were properly represented in governments around the world. The pre-dominance of women at the top of Plaid Cymru is unique in politics and a credit to the party. 



Last week’s Bwcabus extension launch in Lampeter, with Carl Sargeant, the Welsh Government’s Local Government Minister in attendance, marked the latest stage in what is viewed as the future of Welsh rural transport. 

Bwcabus is a Council-run bus service for the rural areas of Mid and South Ceredigion and North Carmarthenshire (see map here). It picks up people who pre-book from their nearest bus stop or, in the case of those with mobility problems, from their homes and connects them to a town or main bus route. Unlike many scheduled bus services, a trip can be booked for any time between 7am – 7pm.

Before going any further, I have to say that I find it almost impossible to have a conversation about bus services without first pointing out that bus de-regulation in 1986 was an absolute disaster and that, if it was up to me, I’d re-regulate the lot tomorrow. But we are where we are and we have to deal with it.

The Transport Act 1985 rules that, when a commercial provider registers a route as commercial, the local authorities have to step away. In areas of low population, with the most popular, profitable routes taken over by the private sector, it then becomes very difficult for a local authority to fill in the gaps between commercial services. At the same time, in rural areas, there are many people living away from the main routes who don’t drive or don’t have access to a car and can’t afford taxis. These people can be left extremely isolated and vulnerable without a decent bus service near their homes and  councils have to find a way to provide a public transport service for them.

In these difficult circumstances, devising a traditional service that meets the needs of a sufficient critical mass of people to be anywhere near viable is almost impossible.  Any workable solution has to be tailored as closely as possible to the needs of individual passengers. The idea behind Bwcabus is that the best way to do that is to let each user negotiate their own bus times.

Full details of the Bwcabus service in Ceredigion can be found here.