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Politics

Jacob’s dream’s crackers

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Cult: Jacob Rees Mogg

WAS it just his imagination running away with him? Was there a ball of confusion instead of clarity? Whatever it was, Jacob Rees Mogg succumbed to the temptations of the television cameras in the House of Commons and gave an insight into the thought processes in the Brexiteers’ psychedelic shack.

In what was a clearly planted question intended to elicit a scripted response from a government minister, Mr Rees Mogg – leader in waiting, evangelist of the Brexit-ultras, and all-round cult – asked his fellow Brexit enthusiast Steve Baker, a minister in the Department for Exiting the EU, to confirm that a Europe expert had told him Treasury officials ​’​had deliberately developed a model to show that all options other than staying in the customs union were bad, and that officials intended to use this to influence policy​’.

Mr Baker enthusiastically confirmed his fellow-believer’s contention.

The Minister said he was sorry to say the account of the conversation was ​’​essentially correct​’​.

There are two issues in tandem here: the first is that a minister of the Crown should not impugn the impartiality of civil servants upon whose advice he depends, for the very good reason they are no free to answer back in public.

The second is more fundamental. Mr Rees Mogg’s account was not ‘essentially correct’. It was a total fabrication.

The expert was, it transpired, a very senior expert in Europe indeed, Charles Grant, the director of the Centre for European Reform and an expert on EU negotiations. And the conversation referred to was one between Charles Grant and Mr Baker which others witnessed.

An audio recording of the conversation was released which totally refuted Mr Baker’s response and undermined the credibility of Mr Rees Mogg’s suggestion of Civil Service bias. As he was not a party to the conversation between the minister and Mr Grant, the interpretation upon which Mr Rees Mogg’s relied to frame his question could only have been fed to him by someone who was.

That person could not have been Mr Baker, of course, who stood before the despatch box the following day and sort of apologised for being caught out misleading the House. He would not, of course, have done so intentionally and, of course, nor would Jacob Rees Mogg.

Mr Rees Mogg is not required to apologise. Which is just as well. In the days of yore, after which Mr Rees Mogg hankers (he has been described as the MP for the 18th Century), he would have been left in a room with a glass of scotch and a revolver and expected to do the decent thing. Instead, in the teeth of being caught out as party to what was – putting it exceedingly generously – an error of memory and what could be – putting it more contentiously – an outright lie, Jacob Rees Mogg did the gentlemanly thing.

He doubled down and repeated the slur.

He claimed: “With the referendum and with the EU, the Treasury has gone back to making forecasts. It was politically advantageous in the past. It is the same for them now. I do think they are fiddling the figures.”

In an atmosphere when words such as ‘treason’ and ‘treachery’ are common currency, the power of words cannot be underestimated. When it comes to Mr Rees-Mogg’s affectation of being an old-fashioned gentleman, one very old-fashioned word stands out when it comes to describing his conduct in continuing to attack those who are not allowed to defend themselves.

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Leading the way in managing planning

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A KEY Officer in Ceredigion leads the way in sharing what it’s like to have a career in planning.

Russell Hughes-Pickering is Ceredigion County Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration, which involves being the head of planning. He has been part of an informative article in February 2020’s edition of ‘The Planner’, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Russell Hughes-Pickering is one of twelve Corporate Lead Officers who sit on the council’s Leadership Group. He says planners need to “be politically astute and look above plans and policies”. This means understanding the organisation, their role in delivering corporate objectives and thinking strategically “so they see how they fit in across the board and in turn help deliver better services and better places for people.”

Russell left Llandovery College in 1985 to start a degree in planning at the University of Westminster. He started work at the London Borough of Hounslow in 1989 as a planner before becoming the lead officer in development plan work in 1997.

The RTPI’s article delves into the careers of a chief planning officer and is campaigning for heads of planning to be incorporated into local authority senior leadership teams. This is amid fears of a declining profile and diminishing corporate presence of spatial planning.

Russell continues, “The more I’ve been involved in preparing corporate plans or the council’s development programme, the easier it is to see, influence and ensure planning is involved at the right time. This has helped avoid issues when major projects go through their planning stage, whether that’s a town centre development, a change to a care home or a new school. Fortunately, I’m involved in an excellent leadership group where the culture focuses on improvement and helping each other to achieve better services.”

He moved back to Aberystwyth in 2000 when taking up the Principal Forward Planner role at Ceredigion, before becoming the Assistant Director for Planning in 2006. This job evolved from a primarily planning remit to one that also included building control and housing matters. In May 2013, he became Head of Performance and Improvement, then became Head of Performance and Economy in 2015. From 01 April 2018, Russell has been the Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration.

When asked what advice Russell would give younger colleagues, he wants to see more authorities improve arrangements on major development projects by setting up corporate development and project management groups and involve planners in them. He also wants to involve the next generation of planners. He said, “Young planners should get involved in these as much as possible so they’re involved in a wide range of service improvements, embrace projects or new development, seek ways to help progress and improve them, and engage in a positive way.”

Councillor Rhodri Evans is the Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration, which includes planning. He said, “We are grateful to Russell for his vision and strong voice for planning matters in Ceredigion. A planner has a big part to play in helping to develop and deliver corporate priorities. It shapes the future of our county for future generations.”

The council’s decision to prioritise the planning process shows how the council is working to reach its corporate priorities of boosting the economy and Promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

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Elin Jones calls on Ceredigion community groups to apply for ATM fund

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Elin Jones, Assembly Member for Ceredigion, has called on community groups to apply for The Community Access to Cash Pilot in order to make sure that ATMs are readily available in rural communities.

The initiative has been launched by UK Finance, the collective voice for the banking and finance industry in the UK.

Responding, Elin Jones AM said:

“Access to cash is still essential for many people, but getting access to cash can be particularly difficult for many communities. We’ve seen bank closures in many towns in Ceredigion, particularly in rural areas, despite opposition from customers in many market towns. Mobile banks do sometimes ease the burden, but the availability of these services is often infrequent.

“I’m glad this initiative has been launched in order to help local communities to identify and secure appropriate access to cash and payment services.

“Community groups are being encouraged to access the fund by applying on the UK Finance website, and I would be happy to assist any community group that is interested in applying. Please feel free to contact my office and I would be happy to help in any way that I can.”

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Politics

Ben Lake MP toasts to the reopening of The Rhydypennau Inn

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Ben Lake MP joined patrons to celebrate the reopening of The Rhydypennau Inn on Wednesday evening. The pub was closed on 12 January for over a month for a £346,000 refurbishment by Heineken owned Stars Pubs & Bars. 10 new jobs have been created, including a role for a second chef on the back of the investment which will see the wet-led community pub upgraded and transformed into a top-quality village pub offering stand-out, food, drink and service.

The refurbishment of The Rhydypennau Inn is a part of Star Pubs & Bars’ £50 million nationwide investment in pubs and bars in 2019.

Ben Lake MP spoke with the local licensee, Barrie Jones on the value of pubs in the community and spoke about the importance of the Long Live the Local campaign which highlights the need for a cut to beer duty rates.

Ben Lake MP said:

I am thrilled I was able to join The Rhydypennau Inn on the night of the reopening. Pubs are often the cornerstones of our local communities and at a challenging time for the industry, it’s great to see toast to a fresh start for the Rhydypennau Inn. It was a pleasure to visit The Rhydypennau Inn and see a local pub that has received a substantial investment and been given a new lease of life as a result.”

Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of Star Pubs & Bars said:

“The Rhydypennau Inn is at the heart of its community, a welcoming place where everyone can come together and socialize. We are pleased to be able to contribute to future of the Great British Pub by upgrading the Rhydypennau Inn and broadening its appeal. We wish Barrie continued success and many happy years behind the bar.”

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