west*wales*news*review

West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

Blow, Blow, Blow, the Regime Wobbles but Doesn’t Fall Down

Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond

What if President John F Kennedy had not been assassinated? How different would our world be? This may seem an odd start for a blog about West Wales, but the malign repercussions of organised political assassinations last for generations. History is written by the winners, as they say, and when the winners have devious intent, the history they write is woven of fabrications.

This is not a plea for absolute truth, because we best we can hope for is an approximation. We are all likely to interpret the same ‘facts’ in different ways because of the unique resources we each bring to analysis, shaped by our different histories. When we cannot rely on the veracity of the ‘facts’ themselves, it is tempting to retreat into our own bubbles and hope that nothing nasty comes along to puncture them.

Staring out through the holes of punctured bubbles in West Wales this year, I saw:

  • The frailties of our confrontational legal system, in which technicalities seem more important than ethics, and in which the prospects of success appear proportional to the ability to pay. One consequence is that a blogger, who at the time was learning the skill, stands to be dispossessed of her share of the family home for — if I remember correctly — writing three words: ‘Pinocchio’, and ‘slush fund’, the latter two chiming in essence with criticism from no less than the Wales Audit Office.
  • A dearth of imagination, especially within Carmarthenshire County Council, where a fear of being sued by moneyed companies appears to prevent planners and councillors from challenging the ridiculous forecasts of demand for new estate-built homes, and where ‘supermarkets’ and ‘jobs’ are still linked like horses and carriages, although any ‘new’ jobs are balanced and often exceeded by job losses in shops that are forced out of business.
  • Acceptance, by the majority of the said council’s officers and members, that ‘rural’ is a dying concept and that the future will be CITIES.

Rural north Carmarthenshire is replete with more businesses for sale than buyers coming forward. Our village school was emptied of pupils in July, and stands silent while the children are bussed and taxied elsewhere. The nearest shop and filling station closed yesterday. Yet the planning authority shies away from allowing job creation in what they call ‘open countryside’. People would start land-based businesses, if they could afford the land, but land is a financial asset and its value is out of all proportion to its productive capacity. Ideas buzzing about in the political group Gwyrddion dros y Blaid, Greens for Plaid, include a national Land Bank for Wales, to acquire land and make it available at modest cost to new and small businesses, particularly those which will contribute to the Welsh Government’s stated aim of the nation using no more than its fair share of planetary resources within a generation.

What fate awaits Ysgol Gynradd Llansawel, an   under-occupied Welsh-medium primary where scarcely any children speak Welsh at home.

Closed: our village school shut its doors in July

As for local government, I have the impression that in Pembrokeshire it is waking after years of deep slumber, thanks to the unceasing efforts of a handful of truth-seeking councillors who weather the insults flung in their direction. Carmarthenshire is still trailing in the wake of its westerly neighbour, one reason being that the alertest, most questioning councillors – there are some — do not receive enough support from the others.

xxx

Do we want our rural areas to look like this? Edwinsford, a grade II* listed building, has fallen down. Photo by Paul White, http://www.welshruins.co.uk

There is change, not enough yet to shake the foundations of local politics, but a wind blowing with greater force as our next local government reorganisation looms, and with it a great opportunity for local government to help create a Wales which uses no more than its fair share of global resources, a One Planet Wales. If the opportunity passes, it may not come again. Future generations won’t thank us for fudging, even contradicting the evidence – but that is a hard habit to break.

PDR

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