Saturday 9 November 2013

Calum Higgins - a progress report

Calum Higgins, Labour's councillor for Tycroes near Ammanford, was recently selected to be the party's candidate for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in the next Westminster elections, and is still in his early twenties.

Growing up in the 1990s, his earliest political memories will be of Tony Blair's dramatic first election victory, and the wave of hope and idealism which swept New Labour into power before things turned sour, and we woke up to find that Blair had dragged Britain into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other scandals followed, of course, such as the cash for honours affair.

One of the consequences of all that was that Labour Party membership plummeted; young people became disillusioned with politics in general, and with Labour politics in particular.

As Calum reached his teens he would have become aware of the Carmarthenshire Labour Party which around that time entered into what seems to be a permanent coalition with the closet Tories and assorted self-servers who make up Meryl Gravell's Independents.

The combination of Blair's bitter legacy and getting into bed with the likes of Meryl Gravell and Pam Palmer would have put most young people off getting involved with Labour in Carmarthenshire. But not Calum.

In Westminster Ed Milliband is championing the Living Wage, and some Labour controlled councils in Wales have implemented this policy for their low-paid workers. Carmarthenshire under its Labour leader has rejected the idea, and it is now about to embark on cutbacks which will see hundreds of low-paid staff being given the sack, and many more being transferred to the tender mercies of private sector care agencies and the like.

The cuts are unlikely to extend to the council's fat cats, and Kevin Madge currently finds himself having to defend what the Wales Audit Office considers to be unlawful payments to the chief executive who is, thanks to Meryl and her Labour allies, one of the highest paid public sector employees in Wales.

Whatever it is that motivates young Calum as he pursues his political career, there is not much evidence that it is idealism or a desire to stand up for the people who elected him.

Calum has now got himself into a spat with Plaid Cymru after he attacked MP Jonathan Edwards for not voting for Labour's proposed temporary energy prices freeze gimmick. The South Wales Guardian quotes Calum as saying that Plaid MPs couldn't be bothered to turn up for the vote (story here).

Not turning up is something Calum knows quite a bit about, and Plaid has responded by pointing out Calum's very poor attendance record for some of the committees he sits on (see announcement below).

Despite his age and the fact that he was elected to the council only last year, Calum has picked up quite an impressive string of committee memberships and jobs.

He is a member of the council's Audit Committee; a member of the Appointments Committee which is responsible for appointing senior council officers; a member and vice chair of the Appeals Committee which deals with appeals from parents against decisions not to provide children with free school transport, staff  dismissal appeals, etc.; in addition, Calum is a member of the Education and Children's Services Scrutiny Committee and vice chair of the Census Working Group which is looking at the council's approach to the Welsh language.

Anyone who has watched broadcasts of council meetings will be familiar with the sight of Calum sitting behind Kevin Madge, nodding vigorously in approval whenever his leader gets up to speak. That is quite an achievement in itself because most people are hard put to make any sense out of Kev's ramblings. To date Calum has missed only three meetings of the full council since June 2012.

The Appointments Committee has met only once, and Calum missed that one.

The Appeals Committee, of which Calum is the vice chair, has met 17 times to hear appeals, mainly from parents fighting decisions not to grant free school transport to their children. Calum has missed 9 of the meetings for which there are minutes.

The Education and Children's Services Scrutiny Committee is one of the most important bodies on the council. Three meetings have been held since Calum became a member, and he failed to turn up to two of them.

In fact, reading through committee minutes it is striking how often you come across "Apologies: Cllr C.P. Higgins". On at least four occasions it seems Calum was too busy elsewhere, probably giving interviews in the media, to make an apology.

Overall, Calum, there is considerable room for improvement. Don't you agree?


‘Actions speak louder than words’, Labour councillor told.
Candidate’s attendance record ‘highly embarrassing’, says local Plaid Councillor
Plaid Cymru County Councillor for Saron ward, Councillor Alun Davies, has responded to the Labour party’s attack on his party by exposing the attendance record of Labour’s Carmarthen East and Dinefwr candidate for the 2015 Westminster election.
The 28 members of the Plaid Cymru councillor group on Carmarthenshire County Council had offered to form a coalition of all parties to help manage the circa £30million of cuts the county council must find.  This has been turned down by the Labour and Independent groups which run the council. 
As a result, Plaid Cymru refused to take part in the council’s recent ‘cuts seminar’ which voted to consult on a range of “savings” which will come out of the pockets of parents and schools, motorists and bus passengers, taxpayers and almost all who use the county’s services.  The Plaid group instead promised to scrutinise the decisions made and endeavour to suggest alternative ways to making the books balance.
In last week’s South Wales Guardian Labour’s candidate Calum Higgins said Plaid Cymru councillors were doing a disservice to their constituents by not taking part in the Council’s cuts agenda.  "This will only be detrimental to their own constituents who won’t be represented properly”, he said.
Later in the week the Labour candidate decided to attack hardworking Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards for abstaining on a vote in Parliament.
But Councillor Alun Davies has reacted to the Labour candidate’s comments by exposing what he brands a “highly embarrassing” attendance record at council meetings, stating that the young candidate cannot be trusted to turn up to do a job of work.
As a member of the County Council’s Appeals Committee, Calum Higgins has attended just 29%of the meetings this year.  As a member of the Education and Children Scrutiny Committee, Calum Higgins has attended just 33% of the meetings this year.  Furthermore, as a member of the Mid and West Wales Fire Authority, Calum Higgins was absent at the recent meeting which discussed the fire authority budget and the potential downgrading of Ammanford fire station. 
County Councillor Alun Davies said:
“It’s a bit rich for Labour’s young councillor to have a go at Jonathan for his principled abstention against labour’s election gimmick.
“Calum’s attendance on the council’s Appeals Committee and Education Scrutiny Committee is appalling – 29% and 33% respectively.  The scores of parents in Carmarthenshire that have had to battle for school transport for their children,  or have fought decisions to close county schools have been let down badly by the labour candidate who just hasn’t shown up to these meetings.
“Action speaks louder than words.  The labour candidate’s highly embarrassing lack of action speaks volumes.
“He’s attacked Plaid Cymru councillors for not attending Labour’s cuts seminar, but where was he last week when the fire authority was discussing the cuts his Labour colleagues are imposing on the fire service?  Ammanford fire station will potentially be downgraded but Labour’s part-time representative was nowhere to be seen.
“In stark contrast, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards is recognised as one of the hardest working MPs in Westminster – making over a thousand contributions in Parliament in just three years.
“The people of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr quite rightly deserve an MP like Jonathan who works tirelessly on their behalf.  In the short period that he’s been a councillor, the labour candidate has demonstrated this year that he cannot be trusted to turn up and do a job of work.  The people of this constituency deserve better.”


Anonymous said...

We the puplic cannot see Cllr attendance records or reasons why meetings are not attended.
Before going further with this story it is only fair to show all records then make ones mind up.

Cneifiwr said...

Actually, you can see any councillor's attendance records. It's on the council's website.

If someone puts themselves up for election and accepts lots of committee places, it's only reasonable to expect that they should make the effort to attend.

If Cllr Higgins has personal reasons for not being able to attend on a regular basis, he should give up his seats on the committees. Instead, he has actually been busy collecting more jobs.

Anonymous said...

But you only put up the comments you like not comments that people are making where is my comment?

Anonymous said...

Haha ! I agree he should dump himself as he cant do his job if he is not there .
How many jobs has he now ?

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @19.50 I don't know. Where is your comment? I have published everything that has come in so far.

Anonymous said...

Another one that's never had a real job.?

Anonymous said...

Well that's untrue. I've commented before and you haven't put it up. I'm another person you haven't put up comments from.

Anonymous said...

My comment was about Jonathan not attending when the vote was about energy prices. I like most people am worried about how I'm going to pay my next gas bill.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @21.12 I hate to break this to you, but the Tories and LibDems have a healthy majority. It was never going to pass anyway.

I will write about energy policy in the near future, but Labour's proposal would not have worked anyway.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand why Plaid cymru say it's an election gimmick. It costs me a fortune to heat my home with oil Central heating. No price freeze on gas would help me.
thankfully we have an mp who gets the situation that people likes me are in.
I think I read in the guardian that the labour candidate is still a student. Is that correct? Can't be a serious candidature if he is.

Anonymous said...

The proposed energy freeze would have benefited us all as it would freeze bills for schools and hospitals. It does also include oil prices.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong here:

The Labour candidate attacks Plaid Cymru for not attending or feeding into the Council's seminar which looked at the tough financial decisions which need to be made.

But then the Labour candidate didn't attend a seminar of the Fire Authority (of which he is a member) which looked at the though financial decisions which need to be made.

Perfect. It sounds like Calum has rolled straight off the conveyer belt from labour's hypocrite factory.

Anonymous said...

I met Calum when he worked in a coffee shop in Swansea. According to the Guardian he is now a trainee barrister.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @9.26 If a Labour victory in 2015 looked likely and Ed Milliband was still sticking to his price freeze idea, don't you think that every energy supplier would be busy sticking their prices up before the freeze took effect?

Secondly, the proposed freeze would only last 20 months. What do you think would happen when the freeze came to an end?

Thirdly, what would happen if, as is perfectly possible, global energy prices fell during the UK price freeze?

Finally it's worth remembering that while it was the Tories who privatised gas and electricity, 13 years of Labour government followed, and it was Labour under Blair who removed price controls in the belief that we had an effective and competitive market.

Plaid's policy includes setting up a Welsh energy supply company which would buy on the wholesale market. Plaid also believes that the UK energy market is in need of fundamental reform.

Perhaps you can see why Jonathan Edwards and others have described Labour's temporary freeze as a sticking plaster.

Anonymous said...

Surely when Mr Milliband announced the policy of an energy price freeze he did not expect it to be a serious policy. What he probably did expect, and got, was the subject being gullibly swallowed by the occupants on the Clapham Omnibus.

Its obvious that prices will be raised before a probable Labour Govt - or after the freeze period. If Labour come in, then expect an immediate windfall tax -then watch withdrawal of investment and the lights going out.

Unfortunately the country is no longer self sufficient in energy and we must pay market rates !

An energy minister said yesterday I think, that people in the South East and West must prepare for a new industry - Fracking ! it could be our salvation ???

As regards Callum - he is so young where is his life experience ? What has he done ? I would have thought that his recoprd as a councillor may be more of an embarrassing encumberance than a help to him.

Tell you what Callum - Tell us exactly what you think about the CCC unlawful payments and the tax arrangements of one employee and we may take you seriously - Go on grow a pair and be a proper Labour man - Have a go !!!!

Anonymous said...

Seems to me this councillor Calum Higgins is on course to be a career politician gathering up as many committees as possible. I suppose it looks good on his CV."Jack of all trades" comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

But Callum managed to find the time to attend this morning's Remembrance service in Llanelli, hobnobbing with Nia and dear old Keith et al. He was officially representing Llanedi Community Council and laid their wreath- I have never before seen a representative from Llanedi at this service. Talk about grooming....

Anonymous said...

And you wonder why young people haven't taken up the mantle and entered politics in any party. Such negativity and personal attacks. I wouldn't want to do it.

Cneifiwr said...

Well, Anon @13.46, he is quite good at dishing it out as well. In fact, that's what sparked this.

It would be good to see more young people entering politics, but I think most people would also agree that it would be good if they had a job in the real world first. Apart from his brief stint in the coffee shop, I don't think Calum has had to earn his crust yet.

Anonymous said...

I would say to anyone who serves the public and is ultra sensitive to criticism "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen." I am sure Mr Higgins is a very capable young man. I am also sure that he
would not have been naive enough to think he would never face fair or unfair criticism.That comes with the job.

Anonymous said...

Cneifiwr= Just thought you might like some facts & figures re the attendance records as discussed in the Annual Reports of the following : Alun Davies PC Saron 83%
C Higgins L Tycroes 75% in addition 90% Fire Authority ,

Some councillors are still running business or part time employment or in Callum case in training for the law

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @15.33 I'm not sure how he arrives at those figures, which are for the year to April 2013.

The figures I compiled were taken from the minutes of meetings - which are of course the official and legal records.

Have a browse through the Education and Children's Scrutiny Committee minutes or those for the Appeals Committee, and you will find that he was absent most of the time - sometimes without an apology.

Perhaps he should have told his voters that he could only represent them part-time when he was canvassing.

Anonymous said...

@12:24 I'm not a supporter of anyone, but I would think that all Community Councils should have a representative present on Rem Sunday. I can't believe someone would think a councillor laying a wreath for those who've fallen is 'grooming', disgraceful comment.

Anonymous said...

As jonathan should have only in Parliament 2/3rds of the time when it's his full time job which tax payers pay him for!

Anonymous said...

I thought you were an independent blogger just trying to make sense of it all!

Anonymous said...

Just seems to me that Plaid are getting a bit jumpy about this young man. Worried I think. When was the last time somebody called the Nat's out on their awful Westminster record?

Anonymous said...

I just did a trawl through the councillors reports to get a feel for attendance. Pretty appalling how many have less than 20 meetings a year, including the leader of Plaid Cymru. As I understand it, he gets paid a senior salary and attended 15 (100%) meetings last year. Compare that to the lad were targeting and he attended 21 (75%) meetings in the same period, while apparently working part-time. I'm quite impressed actually. The leader of the Plaid Cymru group is paid £20K+ to go to 1.25 meetings a month!!!

Anonymous said...

Public 69.3%

Jonathan Edward's attendance in Parliament votes.

salary: £66,396


Disgusting, he should have a 3rd of his pay docked.

Anonymous said...

The reality in Carms East is that Labour and the Tories will be fighting it out for second. The Tories beat Labour in the recent PCC elections in the constituency.

Jonathan Edwards is a high profile MP with impeccable local connections. He is known for running rings round government ministers and the Labour frontbench at ease. In choosing such an inexperienced candidate Labour obviously aren't taking the election seriously.

Cneifiwr said...

Looks like the Labour trolls have woken up! There's too much in that tidal wave of rubbish to deal with in detail, but Jonathan Edwards is one of the most hard working MPs. He has spoken in many more debates than most MPs, and unlike most of the Tory and Labour backbenchers is not a mindless voting machine.

Public Whip, the website you took those figures from, says itself that attendance figures are meaningless. It's the quality that matters, not how often someone votes.

Peter Hughes Griffiths is both party leader and leader of the opposition. That is the reason he does not sit on committees. He is also very hard working.

A final word of thanks to whoever it was who unwittingly drew attention to Calum's very interesting annual report. Oh dear.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how Anon 15:33 arrives at Calum's 90% attendance for meetings of the fire authority... He hasn't been to a meeting since the beginning of June.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Edwards doesn't vote on all pieces of legislation.... It's called devolution. Unlike Labour MPs who champion free prescriptions in Wales but then vote to charge English people for their medication. You'll see that all nationalist MPs have a lower vote rate than unionists.

Also, as a keen follower of our MP's website, I notice he takes part in many things to represent us but abstains because the matter is devolved.

A politician with principles....they still exist!

Unknown said...

Callum is also a member of Mid & West Wales Fire and Rescue

Anonymous said...

i wouldn't be so sure anon 17:14 - the mentor of the Labour candidate defeated another high profile PC politician in Llanelli.

Subsequently he has made a name for himself hosting ladies of the Cardiff night at our expense in the capitals most expensive hotel. And for declaring the downgrading of Llanelli hospital by the Labour party as the proudest moment of his political life.

I pity the people of Carms East if the young apprentice gets in.

Anonymous said...

Re. 23.47 - the 'high profile PC candidate in Llanelli' wasn't defeated by Labour, but rather through the actions of a disgruntled ex-Plaid member standing as a 'People First' candidate in order to wreak revenge.

Anonymous said...

The boy is not even out of nappies yet, he will live half his time in Cardiff, when not in Cardiff he will be working in Llanelli, not in Llanelli he will be hopefully attending his council meetings (I said hopefully) so with these dark nights when will he actually be walking the streets of CE&D?

Anonymous said...

Looks like Edwards 1 Higgins 0