Ben in Caerphilly
Ben Jones, retired headteacher from Caerphilly.
A bone of contention for Ben Jones is the media, and, more specifically, their coverage of Wales and Welsh issues. He feels the media are so England-centric that they don't reflect events and opinions in other parts of the UK. Even within Wales he doesn't think their coverage is what is should be.
As a retired headteacher, the example he gives to back up his viewpoint is education related. At the time when every newly appointed head in England was given a laptop through government funding he recalls that the National Assembly for Wales chose instead to direct money towards purchasing musical instruments for pupils.
It was an excellent initiative on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government. My school benefited from receiving two new flutes and three clarinets, which were much appreciated by pupils. Sadly the story only received media coverage when the scheme was coming to its natural end. The reporting gave the impression that the Assembly was doing away with a long-established provision for pupils, which wasn't the case at all. The real story the media should have covered was the 'laptops for new headteachers in England versus instruments for pupils in Wales', but that got over-looked.
Another issue I feel strongly about is the Right to Buy Council Houses. The Assembly, I believe, is keen to have the right to legislate in favour of empowering local councils to decide on this issue, taking local factors such as the demand for rented accommodation into account. I'm fully supportive of this stance.
As a Plaid Cymru councillor, I was opposed to the sale of council houses under the Thatcher government. There was a need to sell some of them, such as the ones that were proving expensive to maintain, but generally it was a bad move. Historically about 10% of council houses would become available each year for re-letting and this turnover ensured that housing waiting lists were kept to acceptable levels. We're now paying the price for this badly conceived initiative, with higher levels of homlessness due to the unavailability of council housing.
I can think of many Assembly initiatives, which have benefited me personally - the shortening of hospital operating waiting lists, free entry to the National Museums of Wales, bus passes and rail cards for older people, come readily to mind. All in all, the National Assembly for Wales has been good and I'd be in favour of a referendum giving it immediate further law-making powers.