Tuesday, 16 August 2011

While the poor get poorer, Rhondda Cynon Taf council leader gets three salaries

One topic guaranteed to make me very, very angry is how so many of our so-called public "servants" and politicians feel it is fine to rake in the money, while the people they supposedly serve endure increasing hardship.

A Plaid press release reveals that the Labour leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf council, Russel Roberts, is making nearly £100,000 a year from three publicly funded sources. Mr Roberts got £58,962 in financial year 2010-2011 for his work as council leader, including £1,177 travel allowance. Incidentally, that was a 3% increase over his previous salary. This pay rise was granted at a time when council employees at humbler levels are being forced to accept changes in terms and conditions which could result in massive cuts in take-home pay of up to 40%.

Not content with a salary many times higher than the income of most people living in RCT, Mr Roberts also poked his snout into two other troughs over the same period, grabbing £23,544 from South Wales Police Authority as its chairman, while Cwm Taf Health Authority paid him a further £13,344.

As Plaid point out, the council leader's job is supposed to be a full-time placement. It is a wonder how Mr Roberts manages to give value for money to his three employers. Perhaps the answer is that at that level, value for money is no longer a criterion...

Living here in Treorci, I do not have to look far to see how people are being affected by the economic crisis in this country. Major difficulties are being caused by the relentless cuts in services that are being imposed on our community by RCT Council. Nevertheless, council members, led by Mr Roberts had no qualms about awarding themselves increased allowances.

The fact that Plaid Cymru councillors refused to accept these increases for themselves is yet another reason I am proud to be a Plaid member.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Treorci Sorting Office - Public Meeting

The strength of feeling regarding the proposed closure of Treorci Sorting Office was clearly seen in the fact that the public meeting was packed out. All the seats were taken and about 50 people were standing at the back. Many issues were realised. The most pertinent ones will be summarised here.

The representatives from Royal Mail could not hide the fact that the decision has more or less been made already to move all sorting office operations to Ferndale. Apparently this is necessary because Royal Mail only had a £39 million profit last year, while the quantity of mail sent decreased by 6%.

Royal Mail claims that the move would make no difference to residents of the Rhondda Fawr, because they will be able to collect all their mail, including special delivery and other items requiring a signature, from the counter at Treorci Post Office. Collection would be free, because Royal Mail would cover any charges payable to Post Office Counters. This is, however, a concession being made by Royal Mail, which presumably can be withdrawn at any time.

Local business owners expressed dismay at the prospect of having to queue for hours at the post office, rather than walking straight into the sorting office.

Someone who runs a mail order business from Cwm Parc feared that with the sorting office gone, Treorci would receive less priority as a destination to be reached during bad weather. Weather was also a factor mentioned specifically by objectors with respect to Ferndale, because the Rhondda Fach is steeper and more difficult to negotiate.

Royal Mail further claimed the change would be "carbon neutral" since buildings generate a lot of carbon. Thus the extra travel involved in having 23 postmen currently in Treorci travel to join their 10 colleagues currently in Ferndale would be balanced by the loss of the Treorci building.

Objectors pointed out that these sort of calculations did not take into account the financial impact on the postmen faced with a much longer trip to work over the mountains. A union representative made further points about how the move to Ferndale would affect the postmen. The Royal Mail representatives refused to discuss these, saying they were not topics for a public meeting. The audience responded by giving the union representative long and loud applause.

With respect to carbon footprints, the Royal Mail was asked what their feasibility study had concluded about the option of moving the sorting office to the Burberry site. This has now been developed into a site with some of the highest ecological standards in the country. It turned out that this site had not been considered at all, perhaps because the author of the study was not aware of its existence. It further transpired that the feasibility study had been conducted in-house rather than being contracted to outside experts.

The meeting ended with a vague promise from Royal Mail to take our comments and objections into consideration. Nevertheless, the feeling was that the decision will not be changed.

A Freudian slip made by one of the Royal Mail representatives sums up their attitude perfectly. He meant to say "worse", but actually said:

"We are not looking to make the service work"