Archive for Cardiff City Council

Local Politics

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , on May 6, 2012 by telescoper

By way of reminding myself for future reference I thought I’d do a quick post about the results of Thursday’s local elections.

I live in the Riverside ward within the area administered by Cardiff City Council. When I moved here in 2008 there were three Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalist) councillors. That was just after an election in which the Welsh Labour party had done badly, and also to some extent reflected the particular nature of the Pontcanna area which is within Riverside ward, in that it has a sizeable Welsh-speaking population many of whom work for the  media, especially the BBC.

Last year we had a by-election, won by Iona Gordon for Labour, so going into this year’s elections there were two Plaid councillors and one Labour. The result of the 2012 vote was very bad for Plaid, who lost their two remaining candidates to Labour. So in four years I’ve gone from living in a Plaid Cymru stronghold to a Labour stronghold.

The pattern in Riverside ward was repeated across Cardiff, so that Labour achieved a sizeable overall majority, with the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru all losing seats:

Before the elections the Council was run by a LibDem/Plaid Coalition and such was the swing against these parties that Council Leader Rodney Berman lost his seat, although in apparent desperation to cling onto his salary he demanded two recounts before giving up. Afterwards he spoke to the press claiming that the result in Cardiff was down to Westminster politics rather than local issues.

I don’t think so.

I certainly voted on local issues and so did many of the people I talked to. The former administration of the Council was awful in many respects, including proven maladministration over the decision to build a waste incinerator. I’m not the only person to have remarked on the plethora of pointless roadworks going on in the city, including narrowing the busiest thoroughfares, and of course the ongoing over-development of Bute Park.

No, Mr Berman. You were voted out because you did a lousy job.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that Labour will do any better but I very much doubt they can do any worse. I hope I’m not proved wrong.

A Walk in the Park

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 30, 2011 by telescoper

I know my posts about Bute Park tend to be very critical of its “restoration” (i.e. commercial redevelopment) by Cardiff City Council, especially the ridiculous construction project that is doing untold damage opposite the cricket ground. However, I thought I’d balance that with a bit of credit where credit is due. The floral beds in the Park are looking really beautiful, as you can see from these snaps I took on the way home last night. See how many plants you can identify!

The problem is that you’re increasingly likely to come across this sort of thing these days too, as the Council seems to want to encourage private motor vehicles to drive around the footpaths and park on the grass. This was taken just down the footpath, to the south of the flower beds shown in the previous picture.

If you recognize the numberplate please tell the owner he’s a twat, from me. If I had my way there’d be a complete ban on cars and lorries in the park.

Another thing you might be interested to learn concerns the little refreshment kiosk just north of the flower beds:

This little Wendy House was built to replace a Victorian summer house as part of the Council’s “restoration” project. Actually, it’s not a restoration, just a new cafe, next to a paved seating area that doesn’t look anything like the original, doesn’t add anything to the aesthetic of the park,  and  eats even further into the  contiually dwindling green space. What I’d most like to know, however, is how this little building managed to cost the Council £165,778.20. That’s more than the cost of an average home in Cardiff….

…dare I suggest that somebody has been lining their pockets at the expense of the local Council Tax payers?

Rainbow over Cardiff

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 17, 2011 by telescoper

Nice to see the Rainbow Flag  flying at the Cardiff City Council building this morning..

This is in recognition that today, May 17th, is International Day Against Homophobia, or IDAHO for short. Please remember that although attitudes in the UK are much more enlightened than they were only a few years ago, homophobic violence still happens with distressing frequency. And in places such as Uganda, where a bill has been tabled calling for homosexual acts to be punished by the death penalty, matters are even worse…

If you’re wondering why May 17th was chosen for this, then I can tell you that it’s to commemorate May 17th 1990, which is when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of “mental illnesses”.

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Why can’t Cardiff be like Copenhagen?

Posted in Bute Park, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by telescoper

Walking into work this morning I was almost run over three different times by three different vehicles. The first was near the car park in Sophia Gardens, where there are signs and road marking clearly indicating that there is a speed limit of 5 mph but where the normal speed of cars is probably more like 35; the guy who nearly killed me was doing about 60.

Next, in Bute Park, a heavy lorry belonging to the Council, engaged in some sort of “tree-management” business, thundered along the footpath past me. These paths used to be marked 5mph too, but the Council removed all the signs when it decided to build a huge road into the Park and encourage more vehicles to drive around inside. The lorry wasn’t going as fast as the Boy Racer of Sophia Gardens, but the size of the truck made it just as scary.

Finally, using a green light at the pedestrian crossing at Park Place I was narrowly missed by another car who had clearly jumped a red light to get onto the dual carriageway (Dumfries Place) leading to Newport Road.

I have to say things like this aren’t at all unusual, but it is the first time I’ve had three close encounters in one day! Although most car drivers behave responsibly, there seems to be a strong concentration of idiots in Cardiff whose antics are exacerbated by the hare-brained Highways Department of the local council. There are many things to enjoy about living in Cardiff, and the quality of life here is very good for a wide range of reasons, but of all the cities I’ve lived in it is by a long way the least friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

If only Cardiff were like Copenhagen, one of the loveliest and most liveable cities I’ve ever experienced, partly because of traffic policies.

PS. In the interest of balance I should also point out that I was once actually hit on a pedestrian crossing in Cardiff by a bicycle steered by a maniac who went through a red light. In this case, however, I did manage to push him off his bike as he tried to get away, so he ended up more seriously hurt than I was. I was hoping that a friendly car would run over his bike, which was lying in the road, but sadly that didn’t happen.


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Come White Van Man to Bute Park Now…

Posted in Bute Park, Politics with tags , on November 20, 2010 by telescoper

If you needed any proof of Cardiff City Council’s dishonesty about the likely effects of their new road into Bute Park then just take a look at these examples of private vehicles littering this once beautiful site. I should also say that there used to be signs proclaiming a 5mph speed limit on the public footpaths, but these have all been taken away, giving the dreaded White Van Man a licence to drive at high speed around the Park. I’ve stopped walking through it, in fact, on my way to work in the mornings as it has become too unpleasant battling my way through the traffic. Much more of this and I’m afraid Bute Park just won’t be fit for humans…


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Scientology and Stupidity

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on July 20, 2010 by telescoper

The first bit of news that caught my eye this morning as I ate my toast was a local item about Councillor John Dixon of Cardiff City Council. I’m not a big fan of the Council, particularly their bizarre Highways Department which, on the one hand, is narrowing all the roads in the city centre causing ridiculous levels of traffic congestion and, on the other, has completed an appalling road into Bute Park for the purpose of promoting its use by heavy trucks and lorries. When I saw a councillor was in trouble and that the word “stupid” was involved, I assumed I knew what it would be about …

However, that turns out not to be true. The Councillor was on the receiving end of a complaint by the Church of Scientology because of something he posted on Twitter. The message was

I didn’t know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.

The notoriously litigious “Church” complained to Cardiff City Council that this comment impinged on their right to religious freedom. The main point of the Scientologists’ argument was that offending tweet came from “CllrJohnDixon”, implying that he was acting in an official capacity. Indications are that Councillor Dixon has indeed transgressed the Council’s code of conduct and the case will be referred to their disciplinary committee.

This is an interesting situation that brought a number of questions to my mind. First is whether Councillor Dixon actually did anything wrong. I think it’s obvious that his comment wasn’t a criminal act. I doubt if it was actually defamatory either, so it’s unlikely to be involved in a civil case on that basis. However, he was identified as a Councillor and may well have acted contrary to the code of conduct that forms part of his terms of employment if the code of conduct says something about religious belief. That is a matter for the Council to decide and I don’t think it’s helpful to comment here, primarly because I don’t know what the Code of Conduct says.

The second question is whether one’s reaction to a quip that Scientologists are stupid should generate any different reaction to a similar remark about Christians. Or Muslims. Or any other religion. I’ve run into Scientologists myself and read a bit about their religion, which I regard as a hilarious  hotch-potch of laughable fantasies cobbled together by a tenth-rate Science Fiction author with the express purpose of duping the gullible and the vulnerable out of their cash. I believe that anyone caught up in it must indeed be a few sandwiches short of a picnic, but does that give me the right to say they’re “stupid” in public?

Actually, I think it does. And I think I should have the right to say such things about other religions too. For their part they also have the right to protest if they’re offended. But they do not or should not have the right for any form of legal redress simply because I expressed an opinion. I don’t have a problem with this, any more than I have a problem with lampooning people like Simon Jenkins for the stupid things they say.

I suspect there are atheists who think all religions and religious people are stupid, as well as religious people who think all religions are stupid other than the one they believe in. Then there are people, like me, who don’t follow any religion but also don’t think that all of them are totally silly. I think it’s a reasonable principle that the right to hold and to espouse religious beliefs should be respected, unless, of course, the religious beliefs in question contradict common law or basic morality. Should we consider racism or homophobia to be acceptable if motivated by religion but not if such views stem from an atheistic political philisophy?

Although I don’t have any particularly objective yardstick for judging how silly different religions are, and therefore find it quite difficult to be entirely even-handed in my attitudes to religions, I do find Scientology particularly ridiculous. But then looking at the Church of Scientology’s track-record I don’t feel the need to apologize for that.

Behind this is the whole issue of freedom of expression and the extent to which it should be limited, either by the law or by employment contracts. For a start, I know that nobody likes to be on the receiving end of abusive comments, but I can think of much worse examples than “stupid”. Abuse related to an individual’s beliefs also belong to a different category to those related to, for example, race, gender or sexual orientation. People choose their religion (as they do their political views) and while one must respect another’s right to have different opinions, that doesn’t mean those opinions should be immune from challenge or comment. That’s why I disagree with all laws, such as those relating to blasphemy, that put religious beliefs in some special category compared to other kinds of thought. I’m not so sure about laws relating to racist sexist or homophobic abuse. Part of me says that in a free society you have to put up with the freedom people have to be nasty. Another part says that people deserve legal protection from extreme forms of verbal abuse, especially when it becomes threatening to them or if they are in a vulnerable situation.

However, all this about laws is really irrelevant in this case (I think). Whatever the legal situation in the big wide world, employers have a right to decide on what sort of behaviour they will accept from their employees in their office. In many cases – especially, but by no means exclusively,  in the public sector – such things form part of the contract of employment. If an employee transgresses they should face disciplinary action. If that doesn’t happen, or it is done in a discriminatory way, then the whole system starts to look grossly hypocritical. Better surely not to have rules at all than to have them but use them only as window-dressing?

I think what I’m saying is that I think it’s at worst a bit impolite for a private individual to call Scientologists “stupid” but nothing more than that. It’s also perhaps a bit different for a Councillor to do so in their professional capacity than as a private individual. However, I myself would not say that the Church of Scientology itself is stupid. I think it’s much worse than that. I think it knows exactly what it’s doing.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens now in this case. I hope Councillor Dixon gets nothing more than a slap on the wrist. I fear, however, that the media spotlight will compel the Ethics committee to take more drastic measures. That would be a shame, especially when I can think of other examples where much worse and much more obvious  transgressions than this have gone completely unpunished by public bodies who have indeed also connived with the miscreant to conceal evidence of wrongdoing.

Cricket in the Park

Posted in Biographical, Bute Park, Cricket with tags , , , on May 24, 2010 by telescoper

I was walking home a couple of weeks ago and noticed that there were several cricket matches going on in the Park, just over the road from my house in Cardiff. I stopped to watch a few overs, taking one or two experimental pictures with my phone, and was quite impressed at the standard of play. Two distinctly lively quick bowlers were causing the batsmen quite a few problems, though they were not just blocking  but also taking every available opportunity to score. It was attritional, but absorbing stuff.

The use of these fields for cricket was interrupted in 2008 when the National Eisteddfod was held here in Cardiff, on this very spot. It tipped down with rain for the entire week and the fields turned to mud. It has taken the best part of two years for Cardiff City Council to repair the damage and get everything back to working order so that the many local clubs that use the fields here could resume their sporting activities. Of course they had nowhere to play for all that time, thanks to the fools at the Council who totally underestimated the time it would take, not to mention the amount it would cost. You can see in the foreground that some of the grass is still in need of attention.

Just a few hundred yards to the South (right in the picture) lies Sophia Gardens, and the SWALEC stadium home to Glamorgan Cricket Club, currently at the top of the Second Division of the County Championship. I hope the good weather stays with us long enough that I can actually get to see a decent amount of cricket once term finally finishes.

Incidentally, the view is roughly eastwards.  The River Taff flows from left to right, concealed by the trees which are part of the landscaping performed by Capability Brown. They don’t show up too well in the photo, but they were clearly carefully chosen to provide a variety of colour and texture, especially in the changing light of the spring sunshine.  Also hidden  is a weir (Blackweir), where the Dock Feeder Canal is taken off the river to supply water to the docks at Cardiff Bay, and a small bridge. On the far side of the river is Bute Park and, further South, Cardiff Castle.

I may not have a very big garden, but it’s lovely having this beautiful park just a short walk from the house. I hope the Council learn their lesson and stop buggering about with it.

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