February 18 2010

Time stands still


Thanks to all of you who emailed to point out that last week's effort was headed November 11 2010.
Within an hour of posting, my inbox was full of messages informing me it was February.
One suggested that I had borrowed Brian Hall's Tardis (Time Lord); another that I had been partaking too freely of the Merlot; and a third that the choice of November was an example of recalled memory syndrome caused by the trauma of watching England's dire performances in the autumn Tests.
As it happens, it was my birthday just two weeks ago so I knew it is February, not November.
I won't tell you how many years I have clocked up; suffice it to say it is enough for me to be able to pass off little episodes like this as what are known as "senior moments"


There is a good deal of well-founded concern about the state of our town centres where boarded-up shops abound and a good proportion of those which aren't are occupied by charities or estate agents.
The public have an affection for their local town centres, even if they don't use them, so politicians are eager to come up with regeneration and improvement schemes usually involving the expenditure of large wodges of taxpayers' money.
While these initiatives are generally well meant, they are largely futile because the forces leading to the decline in our traditional shopping centres are way beyond the control of politicians or anyone else.
The simple fact is that, over the past 20 years, the rate of creation of retail space has outpaced the increase in spending power require to support it.
And that was during a period when spending power was artificially inflated by an unsustainable credit-fuelled boom.
With years of financial retrenchment ahead of us, the situation will almost certainly get worse.
Take Milford Haven, for instance, where over the past 20 years the development centred on Tesco together with the shops alongside the Marina has led to a threefold increase in the retail floor space.
But there has not been a threefold increase in spending power.
Unfortunately the traditional town centres, being the least efficient, or least subsidised, or both, are first in the firing line.

Lost in the post?


Last week I made reference to a report in the Western Telegraph that my Notice of Motion calling for the newspaper's pricing policy to be referred to the Competition Commission had been unanimously rejected by the county council's cabinet.
As I said, the WT's report had neglected to include any of the figures regarding the advertising charges on which my argument is based (Over a barrel).
Feeling sure that the paper's new editor wouldn't want to be publishing information that was distorted by the omission of key facts (Press Complaints Commission Code: "The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures") I emailed her a letter for publication setting out the full facts (PCC Code: " A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for."
I might also have complained that, while Cllr John Allen-Mirehouse was quoted in the article, I was not invited to respond.
So much for balanced reporting.
Unfortunately, something seems to have gone wrong with the WT's email system because the letter doesn't appear to have got through ,though, as it has not reappeared in my inbox as a rejected message, goodness knows what has happened to it.
For the record the letter is printed below:

Dear Editor,

Your report on my Notice of Motion (NoM) regarding the Western Telegraph's charges for public notices neglected to mention the figures which are the basis for my concerns.
It might help your readers to get a clearer picture of the issues involved if they knew that public notices are charged at £11.27 per column centimetre while other ads, such as property, come in at £7.50 .
As both forms of advertising use the same paper, the same ink, and are printed on the same press, it is difficult to see the justification for this 50% premium.
Though a council report on an earlier NoM concerning this subject which stated that the WT "is the only newspaper circulating in the area [the whole county] " and that "Newspaper proprietors are aware that all local authorities have a statutory duty to publish public notices in relation to a range of their activities." may give readers a clue.


All shall have prizes


I am rather disappointed not to receive a single e-mail praising the clinical way with which England disposed of the challenge of a world class Italian side that had advantage of playing at home.
No dramatic last minute tries required, just a cool demolition job carried out with ruthless, cold-eyed efficiency.
I am beginning to wonder if the reputation of the Welsh as non-partisan objective judges on matters rugby may not be a bit overstated.
After the Wales v England game I had an email pointing out that Wales had won the 15-a-side game by 20-13.
I emailed him at the weekend asking if he could provide me with a similar breakdown of last Saturday's score at the Millennium Stadium but so far all has been silence.
Last season I suggested that it would be much fairer if home advantage was reduced by giving the away side a ten point start.
This didn't receive any support mainly, I suspect, because it would have given England a Grand Slam.
However, this idea of having 15-a-side scores in addition to the actual score raises the interesting possibility of parallel competitions.
There could be the competition as is, ten points start for the away team and the 15-a side result and readers may be able to think of others.
In an ideal world, there would be enough variations to allow all the teams to win a Grand Slam of one sort or another.
That way we could all live in harmony; free of the one-eyed partisanship that mars the present ultra-competitive set-up.

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