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Welcome to Cardiff Woooooooaaaaaah!

Betsan Powys | 12:16 UK time, Monday, 3 December 2007

Did you know that Britain's got talent?

If you didn't, you may like to pop down to the Senedd - or just outside at least - where hundreds of hopefuls have been shouting that very slogan for the past half an hour. They've being herded around by people with clipboards, goaded to shout even louder by a man with megaphone. "Welcome to Cardiff: woooooooooooaaaaah!"

Inside the Senedd the new Chair of the new National Theatre Wales was being introduced to the media. Not quite the same scrum it has to be said and no megaphones. Phil George, who comes from a background in television, resisted the temptation to run outside and start signing up his very first cast members but decided the coincidence was a happy one and "a good sign". Good luck to him.

Deeper still inside the Senedd (the cries of 'welcome to Cardiff wooooooaaaaah' were by now a faint murmur in the distance) and there's little sign today of Christmas cheer. Perhaps next week's carol service will bring that on but it'll be too late to work its magic on the Finance Committee. That their report on the draft budget was critical is no great surprise. That it was quite as critical, may be.

This is a cross-party group of AMs remember, with a Labour majority. Some of the Labour members may be fully signed up members of the awkward squad and the government may well feel like asking why the committee didn't use their opportunity to scrutinise to come up with suggested cuts to the budgets, in order to spend more money on local councils and disabled children.

But the criticism is there for all to read. So why was Alun Ffred Jones - a Plaid Cymru member of the committee - distancing himself full pelt from some of the findings on Good Morning Wales ... almost literally. He was at home he said, the report was in the office; he couldn't comment in detail on it but didn't endorse some of the key findings. While I was in the surgery persuading my daughter that a happy face sticker for a jab in your arm was a really good bargain, Alun Ffred was making waves.

A round of phone-bashing ensues. More voices question whether the report truly reflected the views of the Finance Committee as a whole. There's talk of a last minute meeting and absent members. We ring around.

The only member absent from the final meeting was Alun Ffred Jones. Like all members of the committee - including Plaid's Mohammed Asghar who was present - he got a copy of the report with an invitation to comment. All members of the committee got updated copies of the report with tracked amendments as their comments were read and changes made. Only then was the report published.

Just as we get that clear, a leaked letter hits my desk. It turns out it's a draft letter, written on behalf of the WLGA's Labour Group by Derek Vaughan - WLGA Chair - and is addressed to the First Minister. It says Labour councillors are "exasperated" that the "deliberately punitive" financial settlement leaves them in the lurch, "least of all when we should be mounting a campaign to maximise Labour's chances in 2008" and that "this represents an all time low in terms of relationships between party colleagues at local authority and Assembly level".

The letter hasn't yet been sent to the First Minister. Why not? Not because Councillor Vaughan doesn't stand by its contents but because he now has a face to face meeting with Rhodri Morgan scheduled for this evening. He'll get his chance to spell out where exactly local councillors think the axe could fall so that they get a less "punitive" settlement. It'll be interesting to see what influence their chance to talk has on the final letter, (tracked) amendements and all.

When Derek Vaughan hits town, let's hope he's not greeted by "Welcome to Cardiff, wooooooooaaaaaaah!"

I don't think he's in the mood.

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