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Always, always follow the money

As I’m forever saying in this column, so-called ‘research-based’ surveys can’t be taken at face value. More often than not, you’ll find an agenda of some sort at work, either commercial or political, and sometimes both. You might be tempted to think that there are exceptions to this rule. One such instance perhaps being the “rich list” published by the Taxpayers Alliance which recently shared details of council chief officer salaries. You’d be wrong. There’s some things to be taken into account about any findings put forward by these self-appointed guardians of the public purse. To start, funding for local government has been trimmed down drastically over the years. Close on to a third of re

Divisions to the left of me, schisms to the right …

This week started with two events that reflect Labour’s difficult journey in uncertain times. The first was the sad passing of veteran Newport West MP Paul Flynn. I only met the man a few times and yet on each occasion he impressed me with his insights and undiminished humanity. I also delighted in his wicked sense of humour during an afternoon spent door-knocking in a mid-Wales by-election. The other, which is tinged with quite a different kind of regret, was the news that eight Labour MPs have formed a breakaway group in the House of Commons. At the time of writing, it’s important to make the distinction between the act of establishing a separate group on the opposition benches and setting

What's in store for consumers?

The maxim in retail – as in most other types of business – is that when times are good, growth equals acquisitions. When they're not so good; you get mergers. This stems from the ethos that your aim should be to maintain and hopefully increase, market share regardless of whether the aim is surge or survival The UK's grocery market is immensely competitive. Discounters such as Aldi and Lidl are managing to make it even more so for the big names. Their bottom-up influence on consumer patterns and supply chains is now considerable. Sooner or later, say the analysts, matters will reach a tipping point for the larger players. Morrisons, was previously in the frame as heading for a fall although t

Powering up a new approach to energy

There’s a quiet energy revolution underway in the Swansea Bay region. It’s not a big shiny wind turbine farm or a massive tidal construction out in the bay. Yet a modest cluster of sixteen new homes under construction in Neath could herald a major step change in how we generate power in future. The innovative ‘Active Buildings’ solar power concept uses a combination of technologies that provide homes with the remarkable ability to generate, store and release their own energy. It all sounds a bit sci-fi but the Neath scheme is a pathfinder project in a £500+ million ‘Homes as Power Stations’ City Deal venture that aims to deliver smart, low carbon, energy-efficient homes across the region. I

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