Monday, 5 October 2015

Let's have some honesty over housing plans

It's interesting to note that among those leading the charge against 365 new houses in Llay at last night's planning committee were a Labour councillor backed the local Labour AM and Labour MP.
 Yet it is the Labour Government in Cardiff that's insisting Wrexham Council gives permission for at least an extra 11,000 houses in the county borough over the coming decade. The very same government in which Lesley Griffiths is a minister.
 And it is Labour AM Ken Skates who is arguing for another 12,000 homes to be built in the area.
 The Labour Government's planning inspectorate rejected the council's Local Development Plan and ordered it to increase the number of houses by 4,000, which explains why the A483 corridor is now being subjected to massive housing developments such as the one in Llay.

 The people of Llay won't be fooled by the contradictions between what politicians say at one level and do on another. Labour has been running Wales for 16 years and have taken the people of Wrexham for granted for far too long. It's time...

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Sham consultation over council care home closure

A campaigner fighting to save Wrexham’s last remaining care home for the elderly has described the consultation into its future as a “sham” after it emerged staff were already being offered redeployment and retirement packages.

Cllr Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru’s Wrexham spokeswoman, said: “The council claims it is undertaking a consultation with residents, their families and staff about the future of Nant Silyn while at the same time pushing through redeployment, retirement and redundancy for workers there.

 “It’s a sham consultation because it seems the decision has already been made, regardless of what families and staff have to say. There is a need for a wider and more honest discussion about care for the elderly in the community that involves the council, health board and voluntary groups but we’re not having that debate because the council officers are deciding things behind closed doors.

“We’ve been talking to families and staff, who are passionate about the service being provided, and the local community council has also wanted to ensure a wider community input. But if staff are already being redeployed and pensioned off, the service cannot continue, can it?

“We really do need a change to this tick-box culture of supposedly consulting people and being open to ideas, while the important decisions are all being made in private. To make matters worse, the decisions – such as closing Plas Madoc, going for city status, keeping the mayor and now this – are almost always wrong.”

Cllr Harper added that elderly care was an urgent priority with too much time and money wasted by councils and health boards in arguing over who was responsible for delivery. She added: “One key promise Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales, is making is that we would merge the health and social care budgets so that this constant bickering over funding was a thing of the past. We want a seamless service for the elderly and others needing care in the community or hospitals and merging these two pots of money would help achieve that.”

Friday, 18 September 2015

Cancer treatment to start within 28 days - Plaid pledge

“People in Wales deserve better than second-rate NHS”
Three new diagnostic centres proposed to close healthcare gap

A Plaid Cymru Government will seek to close the healthcare gap between Wales and England, the party’s Shadow Health Minister Elin Jones has declared.

Elin Jones unveiled her party’s plans to
·         establish a 28-day target for diagnoses
·         increase direct GP referral, in line with new NICE guidance
·         create three dedicated diagnostic centres in Wales in order to drive down waiting times for diagnostic tests.

She said that the centres would add to existing NHS services, and would offer a full range of diagnostic tests in order to get patients treated quicker. Her proposals come days after England’s Health Secretary committed his government to a 28 day diagnostic target for suspected cancer patients in that country.

The centres proposed by Plaid Cymru would be used as primary diagnostic centres for people referred with conditions such as suspected cancer and would be staffed by a dedicated team of specialists. 

Wales has some of the longest waiting times in the UK for diagnostic tests, with almost 52% of patients waiting longer than the target six weeks for cystoscopies, and 32.3% waiting longer than six weeks for an MRI scan.

The Party of Wales’ plans will help drive down waiting times, and help people get tested and ultimately diagnosed more quickly.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Elin Jones said:

“Waiting lists for diagnostic tests in Wales are substantially longer than elsewhere. This means that people who are worried about potential illnesses are waiting too long for diagnosis.

“In England, the government says that it will ensure that patients get cancer diagnoses within 28 days. In Wales, a Plaid Cymru government would seek to match England in terms of waiting times and service.

“People in Wales deserve better than a second-rate NHS. The Labour Government has failed to deliver this. So far, the Welsh Government’s investment hasn’t dented waiting times for tests. Patients in Wales have to wait far longer for these tests than anywhere else in the UK.

“The Labour government is the only party opposed to investing more money in the NHS in Wales, despite the fact that services are crying out for cash. Labour is out of money and out of ideas. It’s time to put them out of government.”

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Plaid government would protect our NHS

Plaid Cymru will invest additional £590 million in the health service
Waiting lists to fall and more doctors to be recruited under Plaid Cymru proposals
A Plaid Cymru government would ring-fence £590 million to invest in Wales’ NHS, Elin Jones said today. The Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister said her party would invest the money to recruit 1,000 extra doctors to the NHS in Wales, integrate health and social services to drive down waiting times, and to protect local hospital services.
The money is to be allocated to areas such as Wrexham as a result of the additional £8 billion real terms investment pledged by the UK government.
North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd, who also spoke in the debate, said the additional money would safeguard services in the North, where the local health board is currently in special measures and facing a multi-million pound deficit:
“We cannot afford another five years of government mismanagement of our public services by Labour or risk the threat of Tory privatisation. Plaid Cymru will work with health service staff to give the NHS the leadership it deserves here in the North and throughout the country.”
Elin Jones said that the money would be ring-fenced under a Plaid Cymru government to invest in improving health services in every part of Wales. She added:
“Plaid Cymru is focused on delivering high-quality public services and giving the people of Wales the health service that they deserve. The current Labour government has presided over a period of managed decline in the NHS, and Plaid Cymru is committed to reversing this trend.
“If elected to government in May, Plaid Cymru will implement our plans to train and recruit a 1,000 extra doctors, to drive down waiting times by integrating health and social care services, and by protecting local services. A Party of Wales government will ensure that a further £590 million is invested in the NHS, in order to improve services in all parts of Wales.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Free car parking plan to boost town trade - Plaid Cymru

Free car parking for a trial period to boost trade in Wrexham is among the commitments being made by Plaid Cymru as part of their mini-manifesto for the area.

 The Party of Wales is unveiling this new pilot project as part of a comprehensive package to help build the economy locally.

 Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru's spokesperson in Wrexham, said:
 "We're determined to help small businesses thrive, particularly in hard-pressed town centres. That's why we've agreed that the next Welsh Government should fund a pilot project in Wrexham to allow free car parking for six months or a year to assess the benefits to local businesses and traders.
 "It's part of a package of support tailored to small and medium-sized businesses, including extending the current rate relief and ensuring a Plaid Cymru government in Cardiff supports enterprise throughout the country. For far too long we've seen a tired and complacent Labour Government concentrating on a small patch of the south east and delivering nothing for areas such as Wrexham and Flintshire.
 "Plaid Cymru locally wants to change that and that's why we've put together an ambitious mini-manifesto for Wrexham that we'll be unveiling over the coming weeks and months.
 "Free car parking has been something the local business community has been calling for to boost the town centre. We've listened to that locally and that's something we want to support. Having a pilot project is a tangible way to see how effective it is in terms of delivering benefits for local traders and would not see the local council lose out financially.
 "If it's successful then it's quite possible it could be rolled out further but let's see how the pilot project goes first. It would be a chance to assess the various pros and cons of such a change but we're determined to explore every avenue to help rejuvenate our town centre."

Friday, 11 September 2015

Health board ducks key questions over maternity services

This evening's health board consultation meeting into keeping maternity services in Wrexham's Memorial Hall attracted fewer than 20 people. Those who did attend heard from two health board managers who admitted to having no obstetric experience and managed to leave those present with even less faith in the board's intention to close a consultant-led maternity service in either Wrexham, Bodelwyddan or Bangor.

Under questioning Prof Matt Makin, who is driving this process for the health board, admitted that - although they had quantified the risk from continuing as they are - there was no risk assessment made of the other options. These include removing consultant-led maternity services from Wrexham Maelor Hospital, which would mean about 1,000 births moving to Chester and 1,100 moving to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

His claim that only about five babies each year would need an emergency transfer from Wrexham drew a sharp response from nurses and midwives working on the maternity unit who were present. They were able to describe numerous cases in the past few days that had seen perfectly normal births - just the kind that would be on a Midwife Led Unit - become an emergency. Under the health board's plans, that would mean an emergency transfer to the nearest obstetric unit in Chester or Glan Clwyd.

 Prof Makin ducked a question of whether parents could opt not to have their babies born in England. It's a valid question, especially as the 1,000 births would cost an estimated £4 million extra to cash-strapped Betsi Cadwaladr.

He also failed to explain whether staff would follow the babies, i.e. be redeployed in Chester or Glan Clwyd. His claim that Chester has the capacity begs an obvious question - if Chester can recruit enough doctors to maintain a consultant-led service, why can't Betsi Cadwaladr?

It was perhaps revealing that the Countess of Chester was described by this senior board member as "our fourth district general hospital".

Prof Makin said they had advertised 14 times in 12 months for obstetricians without adequate success, but neglected to add that this problem had been identified as far ago as 10 years and critical shortages of middle-grade doctors were known to be a problem in the past three years and yet senior management did nothing.

This is a crisis of the management's own making - they have failed to recruit and plan their workforce adequately and they seem unable to address the current shortage of doctors with any imagination.

Plaid Cymru has proposed both long-term and short-term solutions: In the long-term we need to expand the Medical School provision in the North to enable doctors to train and settle here. In the shorter term we must push for Advanced Nurse Practitioners and Advanced Neonatal Practioners to help cover middle-grade doctor shifts as well as pushing for greater cooperation between the Mersey Deanery, Wales Deanery and Welsh Government in terms of providing enough training and recruitment opportunities here.

Bizarrely, Prof Makin was able to point to an intensive GP recruitment drive that he hailed as a success. It begged the obvious question of why they hadn't thought to do similar with obstetrics.

Other questions that remained hanging were attempts to get the health board to define the term "temporary" and what strategy they had in place to end the temporary phase. 

They also failed to explain what would happen to Special Care Baby Units in the affected hospitals. Wrexham's SCBU is regularly closed to new admissions due to current pressures and a rising birthrate - if it had to take an extra 1,100 babies from Glan Clwyd, where would any of those sick babies go?

There were plenty of probing questions from those present. The only jarring note was the local MP's focus purely on Wrexham rather than ensuring that all three were maintained for the good of mothers and babies across the North.

Thanks to the staff who attended and were brave enough to challenge their senior management. No amount of platitudes convinced any of those present that the Health Board has any idea what it is doing.

PICTURED: Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru's leader, signs the petition started by Carrie Harper calling for all three maternity services to be retained. Plaid Cymru locally will continue to collect names to submit to the consultation process every Saturday under the arch by the Horse & Jockey. Please join us!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Where there's muck there's brass - and clean energy

Right on our doorstep here in Wrecsam, there's a fantastic initiative underway to convert cow muck and waste food into renewable energy. The Lower Park Farm cooperative is developing an Anaerobic Digester similar to the one already in operation at the Lodge Farm (ironically just a few hundred metres from the anti-fracking camp).
This digester already takes food waste from Kelloggs and other places and mixes it with slurry to create electricity that is fed into the Grid as well as heating the entire farm.
They now want the community to invest in a new cooperative to build a bigger AD plant at Rossett. They're having an open day this Wednesday (9th Sept) and you can attend between 10.30-12; 1.30-3pm or 5.30-7pm.

Richard Tomlinson, a local organic farmer who's behind the Calon Wen milk brand, is so passionate and articulate about this venture that you HAVE to go to hear him. This is joined-up thinking for sustainable farming and renewable energy. He's pictured here with Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM and shadow minister for energy and rural affairs Llyr Gruffydd.
Councillor Carrie Harper, of Plaid Cymru in Wrecsam, said: 
"This is a great community venture from a group of people who are passionate about a greener, cleaner future for our town and our country. It's developing a tried and tested technology that could and should be in use on farms across Wales to provide green energy. "If you don't want fracking but want to keep the lights on - this is a no brainer."

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Fantastic response to Wrexham solidarity appeal for refugees and migrants

A Wrexham woman has been overwhelmed with support for her plan to show solidarity with refugees and migrants.

Katie Wilkinson, 27, a final-year Glyndwr University student,  said: 
"A friend, Leanne Davies, and I were reflecting on the tragic images of the children who drowned trying to flee Syria. Some of the comments we had read on social media sites cast a bleak response, which left us feeling disheartened and ashamed of how these innocent people were being treated and viewed. 
 "We started discussing possible ways we could support them and show solidarity; we hoped to just fill my car with some goods and drop them off with one of the many groups that are making trips to Calais. I wrote a simple Facebook status to see if any friends had any items they could donate, however the status was shared over 80 times and the comments and messages I received from people wanting to help were overwhelming and inspiring. 
 "In fact, the response was so great it led to us creating a group where over 200 people from the local community had joined in under five minutes. As I write this, just over six hours since creating the group, the membership stands at more than 400. Not only have the donations poured in from local people, but local businesses and organisations have reached out to offer themselves as drop off points, meeting locations, sorting rooms and much more. 
 "What began as a small status posted to a few friends has turned into an entire community action in the space of 24 hours. Not only is this campaign, and all the others like it, offering assistance to those in Calais who are desperately trying to survive, it is counteracting the negative depictions the government and mainstream media are projecting about what should, or should not, be done to help. 
 "As the response has been so huge, we are now planning to go directly to the camp in Calais on the 19th of September to join others from across the UK and Europe in a day of solidarity. If anyone is wishing to gain more information or get involved, please join our Facebook group 'Wrexham to Calais solidarity'.
 "Anyone wishing to make a donation there are drop off points at the Saith Seren, Glyndwr Student Guild office and Splash Magic in Plas Madoc. The last 24 hours has not only shown how compassionate and dedicated our local community is, but also how many people want to see positive change for the refugees in Calais."

Logistical nightmare of getting siblings to separate schools.

This is a letter sent to the Wrexham Leader by a concerned parent about Wrexham CBC's complacency and lack of  effort to meet parental demand for Welsh Medium Education:

Dear Editor,

Another long summer holiday draws to an end as many wonder where did all that time fly. September begins and many parents in the Wrexham area delight in their pride as they don their young children in their first school uniform. With a touch of trepidation they will accompany them to the school gate and wish them all the best as they begin what is hoped will be a happy and successful time in their respective school. Such is the case in our household this year and as a family we look forward to being able to watch our daughters walk together to and home from their school, being fortunate enough to live within walking distance allowing for some regular exercise in the process.

However, I recognise that all families have not been as fortunate. As September begins there are households in Wrexham who remain uncertain how they will cope with the school commute for this year and in future years. I can only sympathise with those parents who face the logistical nightmare of ensuring that two young siblings arrive at two different primary schools before having to commute to their own place of work in the town at the height of rush hour traffic since the council's admissions policy has forced families to separate brother and sister in the primary school which they can attend. At least one other family has been offered a place by the council in a school a significant distance from their home forcing them to bypass two closer appropriate schools which they applied for. Surely the enforced separation of young siblings and a commute greater than that which is necessary is an unfair situation to place these young children, let alone an unreasonable challenge to set working families.

Alas, not so. The council maintain that their admissions policy is appropriate. That it is perfectly acceptable to enforce the separation of brothers and sisters in relation to the primary school which they attend, and quadrupling the distance a family must travel to reach school in comparison to their nearest local school is reasonable. Indeed, the editorial of this paper has in the past indicated its view that these parents should familiarise themselves with the nuances of admissions policy and accept the reality of education services in Wrexham entails the enforced separation of siblings and travelling past schools where friends from their community are attending to begin their education outside of their village on the other side of town with not a single familiar face in the classroom.

Realising that this is the reality of the council's admission policy and its impact on 3 and 4 year olds, I find it difficult to recognise the policy as reasonable, adequate and fair.

Yours sincerely,

Rhodri Davies

Public meeting to discuss maternity services closure

Campaigners against the closure of maternity services in Wrexham Maelor hospital are hoping for a bumper turnout at a public information meeting this Friday.

The meeting in the Catrin Finch Centre, Glyndwr University, starts at 7pm on September 4th. Speakers include Dr Eamonn Jessup of the British Medical Association and local campaigner Ruth Drake, from the Cherish charity.

Plaid Cymru councillor Carrie Harper, who has organised the meeting, said:

“The health board’s latest consultation is a very real threat to maternity services across North Wales. The board tried to close consultant-led maternity services in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd without warning earlier this year but a successful legal challenge by the BMA forced it to think again.
 “This consultation has widened the scope to include both Bangor and Wrexham hospitals, so it’s possible we could see 2,100 of the births that normally happen in the Maelor being transferred to either Chester or Glan Clwyd. We believe that extra journey will increase the risk to mothers and babies unacceptably and will not be temporary, as the board claims. “We’re equally opposed to the downgrading of services in Bangor or Glan Clwyd, because mothers there should also not be forced down the A55 in search of specialist help. There is plenty of evidence to show that journeys beyond 45 minutes increase the risk and the congestion, roadworks and accidents on the A55 make it even more hazardous.”

Cllr Harper said a petition opposing the changes had already attracted more than 2,000 signatures locally in just one week and she had been among the 700 who marched against the proposals in Rhyl on Bank Holiday Monday: 

“That shows how much people value their maternity services – many of us are incredibly thankful to the doctors, nurses and midwives in maternity and Special Care Baby Units for the work they do.
 “There are challenges facing the health board but many of the problems they face are of their own making. Shortages in middle-ranking doctors are not unique to North Wales and are not new either. Long-term planning, as Plaid Cymru has proposed, could bring a new Medical Training school to the North and start the process of training and recruiting doctors to serve both our local communities as GPs and as specialist doctors in our hospitals. “In the short term, we need to work with the Wales Deanery and Mersey Deanery to get more doctors working in our hospitals as well as ensuring nurses have the chance to become Advanced Nurse Practitioners and Advanced Neonatal Practioners. “These are practical steps both the health board and Welsh Government should be doing – in fact should have been doing some years ago. Because they have failed so badly, we’re now playing catch up and it’s become something of a crisis. It’s a crisis of their own making. Mothers, babies and their families should not pay the price for their inaction and ineptitude.”

·        Catrin Finch Centre is on Crispin Lane, Wrexham, with plenty of free parking. Tea and coffee available on the night.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Hundreds in Wrexham sign petition to protect North Wales maternity services

Hundreds of signatures were collected today in Wrecsam town centre in response to the Health Boards consultation on the future of maternity services across north Wales. 

The petition opposes any downgrading of services at the Wrexham Maelor and also calls on Betsi Cadwaladr to retain doctor-led services in all three district hospitals.

One of the four options being considered is the temporary downgrading of doctor-led maternity services at Wrexham Maelor hospital. This option would see up to 1000 expectant mothers forced to travel to either Glan Clwyd or Chester to have their babies.

Plaid's Wrexham Assembly candidate Carrie Harper said: " There was a very strong reaction from local people today to the idea of downgrading Wrexham maternity services. Many people were horrified at the proposals and expressed their concerns about the possibility of so many local women having to travel for care and the increased risk this would pose to the health of new mothers and their babies."

" Many also expressed a huge amount of support for the staff at the Maelor and the quality of care they'd received when having their own children there.."

"Childbirth is by its nature very unpredictable, I know this only to well myself having had my son 9 weeks early, having the right level of care on hand locally was absolutely vital for us and will be for other local families. Studies have shown that an increased travel time of just 45 minutes can significantly increase infant mortality rates. The increased travel time to get to either Glan Clwyd or the Countess of Chester, along with other problems such as congestion on both the A55 and the A483 will put local mothers and babies at an unacceptable increased level of risk."

 "Plaid Cymru have consistently challenged Betsicadwaldr's plans to downgrade maternity services across north Wales. Option 1 of the current consultation would see doctor led-maternity care continue to be provided at all three district hospitals at Wrexham, Glan Clwyd and Ysbyty Gwynedd.  This is the option we need to fight for."

"To give people more information, we've also organised a public meeting in the Catrin Finch centre at Glyndwr University (Crispin Lane entrance) at 7pm on Friday, September 4th. Among the speakers will be Ruth Drake from the Cherish charity and a long-time campaigner for better baby care services locally, as well as Dr Eamonn Jessup, of the British Medical Association. I would urge people to  come along to have their say."

People can also sign the online petition which currently has over 1,800 signatures here:

Friday, 28 August 2015

Council reduces use of bailiffs

Plaid Cymru has welcomed the reduction in the use of bailiffs by Wrexham Council.

Plaid Cymru's Gwersyllt councillor Arfon Jones said research by the Money Advice Trust into the use of bailiffs by 326 local authorities in Wales and England showed Wrexham County Borough Council had "bucked" the overall trend by reducing the number of occasions they have instructed bailiffs to collect from individuals and businesses.

 The figures show the council reduced the number of bailiff involvement by 29% over 2 years, although that still meant instructing bailiffs on 2539 occasions - equivalent to 3.98% of properties in the area. 

Not all councils in Wales have reduced in the same way. Cardiff City Council by comparison has instructed bailiffs on 24,000 occasions, which is up 86% on two years previously - equal to 14.7% of their properties.

Cllr Arfon Jones said:

"I have had several conversations with Wrexham Council officials over the years where I have expressed concern about the council's use of bailiffs and I very much welcome this reduction in their use. There is however plenty of room to reduce further and I very much hope that we continue in that vein. I will also be asking officers for a briefing and understanding so we as local councillors can be aware of best practice."

Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrecsam said: 

"I have assisted many people who have been in debt and felt pressurised by bailiffs. This has caused stress and ill health in families as charges often lead to the original debt being doubled. Bailiff use should be a last resort and I very much hope that Wrexham Council will continue to reduce the number of debtors to bailiffs even more."

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Nant Silyn: Plans to close last council care home 'flawed'

Wrexham Council's plans to close its last remaining care home for the elderly are flawed and ignore the growing need for care in the community.

That's the view of Plaid Cymru's Wrexham spokeswoman Carrie Harper after a visit to Nant Silyn in Caia Park, Wrexham.

She said the consultation paper into the closure did not explain the situation in full and raises more questions than answers.

Cllr Harper said: 
"Council officers have been trying to close Nant Silyn for the past decade. Back in 2009 my Plaid Cymru colleagues and I, when we were on the council, successfully opposed a closure plan. It's clear that the current situation, where only seven of the 29 beds are occupied, has happened due to a policy of not accepting admissions for the past year and a half. It's little wonder that the place is costing more to run if there are so few people being cared for there. With just a few more residents, it's likely the home would be in surplus.

 "The determination in certain quarters to press ahead with closure would mean residents and those who use the home for vital respite care would go to a variety of care homes in the private sector. The council says there is no demand for these services but the private sector obviously disagrees as it expands in the Wrexham area.  "Furthermore the council is making assumptions regarding future cost of these private placements without acknowledging the calls from private care providers that councils will have to pay more for care if they are to afford new minimum wage standards in the coming months and years.  "The council also talks of block booking respite care in private care, which may result in them paying up to £600 a week for an empty bed. Is this really a better way to deliver a much-needed service? "Losing Nant Silyn would also mean losing a centre of expertise and care, somewhere with skills in reablement and already delivering much-needed dementia services and day care in the community. "Families today told me that Nant Silyn is just the sort of place where they feel confident that their relatives can have good quality respite care and enable them to stay in their own homes. It is also popular with local GPs, who see it as a useful halfway house for the elderly as they leave hospital. If it goes, the danger is that we will see more bed-blocking in the Maelor because we lack community facilities." 

 She also criticised Wrexham Council's decision not to consult with the wider community on this matter, saying future users were being denied a chance to have their say. Cllr Harper added: 
"There's a petition being distributed and I would urge everyone who wants to ensure we have the best possible care for our elderly and infirm to support Nant Silyn."

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Re-thinking public funding

A visit along the Clywedog Trail today got me thinking about how public money is often squandered on projects that cannot be sustained.

The Clywedog Trail runs seven miles from Minera lead mines

along the river Clywedog to Nant Mill, Coedpoeth

past the Bersham industrial heritage centre and renovated ironworks

 before winding its way past Erddig and on to King's Mill at Abenbury.

It's a wonderful trail for walkers and has some fantastic industrial heritage sites, including what many argue is the cradle of the industrial revolution in sleepy Bersham. Iron mad John Wilkinson developed world-leading industrial processes at the site, exporting cannon disguised as water pipes to France and paving the way for the rapid expansion of the Wrecsam area as an industrial centre. 

But what the above centres - lovingly restored and re-opened to the public in the 1980s and 1990s - have in common are that they are all now closed. 

Cutbacks to council budgets have meant that non-statutory services such as leisure and library services (under which these sat) were first to go. That's a matter of great regret because our history and heritage are important. Bersham was the last to close last year - allegedly to save £58,000.

All these sites were restored at great cost through public funding - through the Welsh Office, the WDA, the EU and latterly the Welsh Government. Like so many of these projects, the funding is usually to fund building work rather than running costs and is usually time limited so that such funds run out after three years or so.

Over-optimistic business plans, often run up hurriedly to meet artificial deadlines imposed by the grant providers keen to get rid of funding before year's end, are concocted. These show inflated visitor numbers and spending in the cafe and shop paying for staff and ongoing maintenance. The tight limitations on spending often mean great extravagance on the build when some would have been better kept for running costs.

Another more recent project that springs to mind locally is the "tarting up" of King Street, with nice new lighting and paving. The limitations of the scheme - which cost £1.6 million - are apparent. Half the shops in King Street are now closed and there was no way to spend any of that money on assisting local enterprises to either stay in business or open a new business. The money had to be spent on the paving and lighting. 

By most measures, this is a waste of money and merely reinforces the view that "the Council" and/or "the Government" hasn't got a clue when it comes to spending public money. And while there's always a need to ensure that public money is spent wisely and within strict perameters, these artificial pots of money create a race among "grant chasers". This is a curious body of people that exists in councils, universities and many voluntary/charitable groups. They scurry from pot to pot trying to justify their particular projects within those strict perameters, hoping to squirrel it away.

Unfortunately there is little thought beyond the moment of attaining the prize. There is little thought of what will be the fate of King Street in five or 10 years' time because the caravan has moved on and there's another pot of money to exploited. Among them will be the Vibrant and Viable Places to rejuvenate Wrecsam town centre. At first sight, it's encouraging to see a large slice of money coming to the town - £10.5m of public money to be boosted by private finance to £25m. However the money is to be spent partly on providing new housing. The remainder will go on developing the arts sector and creating new businesses.

 It remains to be seen how that pans out - Wrecsam has a lively creative arts industry that needs a focus and help. Entertainment in its broadest sense is the way forward for the town centre as it seeks to reinvent itself in this online/out-of-town shopping era. 

But is there anyone thinking beyond the next grant pot and how Wrecsam will look in 10 or 20 years' time? Or will we see more Minera Lead Mines, Nant Mills, Bershams and Kings Mills?

* Bersham is particularly close to my heart as I worked there on a glorified YTS scheme (MSC) back in the mid 80s.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Plan proposes 1,000 babies to be moved to Chester

New proposals on closing maternity services in North Wales could mean 1,000 babies currently being born in Wrecsam being moved to Chester.
 Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board today announced it would consult on four options. The first is to maintain the current levels of consultant-led maternity services in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Wrecsam and Bangor.
 The other three options involve the "temporary" closure of doctor-led services at one of the three hospitals.
 In the case of Wrecsam, that would mean 1,000 babies being transferred each year to the Countess of Chester hospital. The cost to the NHS in Wales is unknown.
 A further 1,100 babies would be transferred to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd under Option 2 of the consultation document with just 600 births remaining in the Maelor" in a standalone Midwife-Led Unit. In the event of an emergency, an ambulance would take the mother and/or child to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.
 Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru's Wrecsam spokeswoman, said: "The health board has come up with a set of proposals that will place mothers and babies at greater risk than at present. Any decision to downgrade maternity services at the Maelor will be fiercely opposed and the idea that mothers should travel the extra distance to Chester or Glan Clwyd is a huge concern. Many people don't have ready access to a car and those that do are well aware of the problems of congestion, roadworks and regular accidents along both the A55 and A483."
 The consultation lasts until October 5th and there will be a public meetings in the following venues to discuss the options.
 Carrie Harper, who gave birth to both her children in the Maelor, said: "Please make your voice heard and make sure our local hospital is not downgraded.
 "Plaid Cymru's call for 1,000 extra doctors to be trained and recruited has never been more relevant. We need those doctors to ensure there are safe and sustainable rotas at each of our main hospitals in the North.
 "The current Labour Government in Cardiff has failed miserably to make that a priority and that's why we're seeing our NHS struggle to meet demand."

Wednesday 9th        Rhyl Town Hall, Wellington Road, Rhyl, LL18 1BA
Friday 11th               Wrexham Memorial Hall, Bodhyfryd, Wrexham, LL12 7AG
Tuesday 15th            Holyhead Town Hall, Newry Street, Holyhead, Anglesey, LL65 1HN
Thursday 17th           Dolgellau Leisure Centre, Ffordd Arran, Dolgellau, LL40 1LH
Monday 21st             The Interchange, 317-319 Abergele Road, Colwyn Bay, LL29 9YF
Wednesday 23rd       Flint Town Hall, Holywell Street, Flint, CH6 5NW
Monday 28th              Bangor FC, The Book People Stadium, Nantporth, Holyhead Road, Bangor, LL57 2HQ
All sessions will run from 1:00pm to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 7:00pm