Archive for Cardiff City Council

Local Election Issues

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , , , on May 4, 2017 by telescoper

Though very much overshadowed by the looming General Election, today sees important local elections in various locations across the United Kingdom including here in Cardiff where all seats on Cardiff City Council are up for grabs. This is an example of a unitary authority, unlike some areas where there are county and borough councils that operate on different levels.

Councillors are paid an `allowance’ which varies across the country but in Cardiff corresponds to a basic amount of £13,300k per annum. Not exactly a luxurious income, but it is essentially a part-time job. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy though, as many difficult choices have to be made when budgets are tight.

Since my current job at Cardiff University is part-time I did toy with the idea of putting myself forward as a Labour Party candidate, but in the end didn’t pursue it – largely because I’ve not had as much free time as I thought I would. In any case we have three very good prospective candidates in Iona Gordon, Kanaya Singh, and Caro Wild. I wish them all good luck!

When I first moved to Cardiff, in 2007, the Liberal Democrats were the largest party in the Council, a position they consolidated in the 2008 elections, where the administration that was formed consisted of a coalition between the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party. At the 2012 elections the Liberal Democrats crashed and burned and Labour regained the position as majority party it had lost to the LibDems in 2004. These local elections normally take place every four years, but were deferred by one year by the Welsh Government, which is why they are taking place now rather than in 2016.

Local elections return councillors for each of a number of wards within each area. Some wards return only one representative while others can have a number of councillors. My own ward, Riverside, for example, has three councillors. When I moved to my house in Pontcanna in 2008 all three councillors belonged to Plaid Cymru; at the 2012 elections all three were Labour. I think the past success of Plaid Cymru in Riverside may relate to the presence of Welsh language media organizations in the area. It’s a very mixed ward, actually, with some very posh areas in the North (towards Llandaff) and some very working-class areas to the South.

What will happen this time? I honestly have no idea. It is very difficult to predict local elections on the basis of national politics for a number of reasons. One is that turnout is very low – 30% is very high for this kind of poll. Seats in the council can be gained and lost by just a few hundred votes. There’s also the fact that those people who do vote tend to do so on the basis of very local matters, e.g. the efficiency of the refuse collection service, rather than the national and international issues that will dominate the General Election. Not that this will stop the pundits prattling on about the results.

I can see Plaid Cymru doing reasonably well, but would be surprised if either the Liberal Democrats made a substantial comeback or the Conservatives made big gains. We’ll just have to wait and see, though, as I’ve been massively wrong about such things before!

Anyway, I’m going to a concert tonight to take my mind of things and have no intention of waiting up until the early hours of the morning to hear the results come in, so I’ll update this with the results tomorrow morning.
UPDATE 8.30am, 5/5/2017: Riverside ward returned three labour councillors and Labour retained control of Cardiff City Council.

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Cardiff, City of Cycling?

Posted in Bute Park, Cardiff with tags , , , , , , , on February 22, 2017 by telescoper

Two recent news items about Cardiff caught my attention so I thought I’d do a quick post. The first piece was about the terrible state of traffic congestion in the city. This doesn’t affect me directly as I normally work to work and back, but it has definitely got much worse in the last few years. The roads are regularly gridlocked, a situation made worse by the interminable and apparently pointless roadworks going on everywhere as well as absurdly slow and dysfunctional traffic lights. There’s a common view around these parts that this is being allowed to happen – or even engineered – so that Cardiff City Council can justify the introduction of congestion charging. This would be an unpopular move among motorists, but I think a congestion charge would not be a bad idea at all, as what the city really needs is to reduce the number of motor vehicles on its streets, to deal with the growing problem of pollution and long journey times.

One day, about six years ago,  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 that is the only 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.

Which brings me to the second news item, which is about Cardiff City Council’s ambitious new Cycling Strategy, which aims to double the number of trips made using cyclists over the next ten years. That still wouldn’t reach the level of Cambridge, where 30% of all journeys in the city are done by bicycle.

Cardiff has a long way to go to match Cambridge and further still to be like Copenhagen, one of the loveliest and most livable cities I’ve ever experienced, partly because of its traffic policies.

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.

I hope in their desire to increase the number of cyclists, the town planners don’t forget those of us who travel on foot!

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, Cardiff, 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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