Tuesday, 21 November 2017

'Don't take pay rise while cutting services'

Wrexham councillors challenged to show a lead 

Plaid Cymru councillors have called on other Wrexham councillors to refuse to take a pay rise while cutting jobs and services

Cllr Marc Jones, on behalf of the Plaid Cymru group of councillors on Wrexham Council, said: 
"Plaid Cymru's councillors gave a pledge not to take a pay rise if elected and we as a group have stuck to that promise. We have not taken this year's pay rise.
 "We will not be taking the proposed pay rise for next year either on a voluntary basis. On top of that, we will continue to pay for our council iPads, which was also one of our election promises.
 "We're told time after time about difficult decisions to be made by the council to save money. Well, it's time councillors made some difficult decisions about their own incomes and allowances. If every councillor followed our lead we could save £18,000 a year* to go towards a range of frontline services that the budget proposals want to cut.
 "Over time, this amounts to a substantial saving and we should be showing a lead as councillors. The idea that councillors should get any pay rise while cutting services and jobs is frankly disgusting."
The matter will be debated in Thursday's Democratic Services committee.


* Breakdown of savings:
£100 pay rise for 2017-8 per councillor x 52 = £5,200
£200 pay rise for 2018-9 per councillor x 52 = £10,400
£60 a year for iPads (£300 over the lifetime of the council term = the cost of the iPad) per councillor x 52 = £3,120

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Demolition plan for busy community centre under fire

Budget plans need for better scrutiny

A thriving community centre has been earmarked for demolition under Wrexham Council's "Difficult Decisions" budget cuts proposals.

The error only came to light when residents in Penycae realised that their village community centre was one of three listed for demolition, despite it being home to a playgroup and other community activities.

The demolition was planned as part of budget cuts designed to save Wrexham Council money. The Difficult Decisions paper claimed the three community centres were not in use and demolishing them would save on rates.

Cllr Marc Jones, leader of Plaid Cymru's group on Wrexham Council, said:
"The Difficult Decisions proposals by Wrexham Council's Executive Board haven't been scrutinised by all councillors and many of the savings are one liners with few details.

"That's why we felt it was important that councillors had the chance to scrutinise the proposals in detail and this error vindicates that decision. I'm very glad sharp-eyed residents in Penycae realised there was a mistake and we can ensure that this cut is taken out of the budget."
Plaid Cymru councillors have successfully argued for the council's various scrutiny committees in the coming month to look in detail at the planned cutbacks.

Cllr Jones added: 
"There are other areas where we have concerns that proposals will not, in fact, deliver the savings claimed. Once we've seen the detail, upon which the Executive Board have based their decisions, we can present alternatives."

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Wrexham council leadership to be held accountable for budget cuts proposals

Plaid Cymru councillors have begun a process of summoning lead members and officers to Wrexham councils scrutiny committees, in order to challenge their cuts and savings proposals. The 'Difficult Decisions' proposals were passed for public consultation by the Executive Board in October and will potentially see significant cuts to Wrexham's school music service, parks and adult social services, amongst other areas.

The council leadership made up of Tories and Independents had planned to manoeuvre the proposals through several confidential workshops, bypassing the public scrutiny process which will allow Councillors to thoroughly assess the impacts of the cuts and savings, to challenge lead members, as well making recommendations on the proposals to the Executive Board.

Plaid Cymru have members on all 5 of Wrexham's scrutiny committees and they have officially requested that all of the committees scrutinise the areas of the budget under their remit. Two have so far agreed, with the 3 remaining committees discussing the request next week:

Cllr Carrie Harper who sits on the Homes and Environment and Lifelong Learning committees said:" With power comes responsibility and accountability and we feel very strongly that proposals to save £6.2 million next year must go through a robust scrutiny process. As new councillors in May we were surprised to discover that didn't happen automatically".

"Many of the proposed cuts and savings that have been presented to councillors to date have very little information available, with many simply having one line or a paragraph. That's not sufficient for councillors or members of the public to thoroughly assess the implications of each saving and we have therefore requested more information on each proposal. This has been met with some reluctance from lead members up to now,  who don't seem to understand why the additional information is needed. Of course seeing as they've already sanctioned these proposals going out to public consultation, we'd have hoped there'd be more information available than we've currently seen, otherwise we have to question what they've based their budget recommendations on?"

The 'Difficult Decisions' consultation is open to the public to comment on until the 30th November, it has already sparked controversy with the council Leader Mark Pritchard claiming that many of the 2000 public responses received to date were driven by political activists. He said " I would be delighted if there are more people who would make the effort and fill it in, and I am on about genuine local people who have no party politics or tricks to play".

Council leader should focus on running Wrexham instead of making wild accusations

Plaid Cymru councillors have called on Wrexham council leader to focus on running the authority rather than making wild accusations.

The call comes after claims by Councillor Mark Pritchard, leader of Wrexham Council, that only political activists had filled in a council questionnaire on proposed cuts and another attack on unnamed politicians.

He also claimed there 'would be nowhere to hide for any politician' should more web cameras be installed to cover scrutiny meetings.

Responding to claims that some councillors were saying one thing in meetings without cameras and another when they were being filmed, Cllr Carrie Harper said:
"Cllr Pritchard needs to concentrate on what he's supposed to be doing rather than blurting out cryptic and underhand rants to the press about what other councillors may or may not be saying in meetings. "One minute the leadership says it would welcome more scrutiny of the budget process, the next it throws its toys out and complains about 'political games' when its budget is dragged from confidential workshops and is taken through a public scrutiny process. This flip-flopping points to a weak and paranoid leadership, something we see as the opposition week in week out. "The more webcasts broadcasting council meetings to the people of Wrexham the better as far as I'm concerned."
Cllr Marc Jones added his voice to criticism of the council leader, who suggested that those filling in the questionnaire on the budget cuts were political activists rather than ordinary people:
"As a councillor, I welcome the fact that 2,000 people have already filled in the questionnaires about proposed savings and cuts. If the council leader believes he can dismiss these 2,000 people as political activists rather than ordinary people, then he's either psychic or incredibly insulting to those who've taken the time to answer the council's questions.
"Most people I've spoken to are unhappy about elements of the cuts and want more alternatives to the Difficult Decisions being put forward. They want to know, for example, why the difficult decisions don't extend to councillors and senior management, to the cost of the mayor and iPads. That's what's bothering Mr and Mrs Jones.
 
"If we're going to make difficult decisions, lets have all the options on the table."

Friday, 3 November 2017

EMPTY HOMES IN WREXHAM DOUBLE IN FIVE YEARS


The number of long-term homes in Wrexham has doubled in the past five years, according to a new council report.

In 2016-17 there were 419 houses that had been empty for more than six months compared with 206 in 2012/3.

A small number - currently 38 - are council properties but these include 22 due for demolition in Plas Madoc. The report proposes to ensure that no council house is empty for more than six months.

The report goes to Wrexham Council's Housing and Environment Scrutiny Committee next week.

Cllr Carrie Harper, who represents Queensway ward for Plaid Cymru, said: 
"I'm encouraged that the number of council properties lying empty is being tackled but that goes hand in hand with a dramatic increase in the number of private houses not being occupied. Some of the worst examples of housing are those that have been bought from the council but are now in a state of disrepair - we need to be able to act to bring housing in the community up to a standard.

 "That will mean accessing funds as loans to householders or even buying those houses. We need to do something different to tackle the waiting list for council accommodation and the growing pressure in the private-rented sector.

 "Plaid Cymru wants to see new council houses being built to help meet demand but getting these empty homes back into use is also important.

 "These hundreds of long-term empty properties also bring into question the numbers of extra houses that Wrexham Council is expected to allow on greenfield sites under the new Local Development Plan. It makes no sense for the Welsh Government to insist on creating huge new commuter estates when it's not providing support to get these houses in our communities back into use." 

Cllr Marc Jones, of Grosvenor ward, added: 

"My ward has a number of long-term empty properties that blight the Rhosddu area. Good work has been done to bring some back into use but we need to speed up that process and make it clear to poor landlords that they can't let houses just sit there for years on end, often becoming derelict and a nuisance to neighbours. Many of these are perfectly good homes that end up blighting a neighbourhood and the council's leadership shouldn't treat this as a Cinderella service."

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Council cuts agenda faces challenge

Plaid Cymru's three councillors on Wrexham Council are putting the Executive Board's plans to cut services and save money under the microscope.

Cllrs Gwenfair Jones, Carrie Harper and Marc Jones have asked for the savings proposals - currently out to public consultation - to go before the relevant scrutiny committees so councillors can challenge the plans more fully.

The decision was made after council leader Mark Pritchard invited councillors to scrutinise the proposals by asking for them to be put on the agenda for the various scrutiny committees.

Cllr Marc Jones said:
"Proposed savings that affect the council's economy, business and investment strategy will be looked into by that scrutiny committee next month. Other planned cuts in housing, environment, life-long learning and other departments will also come under scrutiny.
 "Councillors have been presented with some information at workshops on the budget but this has often consisted of a sentence saying X thousands would be saved by merging services with other councils or charging service users more. We need to be clear that when we vote on the budget, those figures are credible and what impacts those proposed cuts and increased charges will have.
 "That will enable us, as a group, to come up with alternatives to the 'Difficult Decisions' proposals. There are some things - for example charging councillors to park in the Guildhall carpark - that are long overdue but other cuts will have a damaging effect on the borough and will be resisted."

 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

New bid to presume against fracking in Wales


  
Wrexham councillor Carrie Harper has welcomed news that Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas is putting forward a new legislative bid to ensure a presumption again fracking in Wales.
Mid and West AM Simon Thomas is moving a Member's Legislative Proposal in the Senedd today.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs Simon Thomas said:
Plaid Cymru is calling on the Labour Government to commit to a precautionary approach to unconventional gas activity, including opposing fracking“Next year we get the powers in the Assembly to ban fracking. I will be leading a legislative debate in the Assembly to do just that.“We don’t need fracking in Wales. We don’t want fracking in Wales. And Plaid Cymru won’t allow fracking in Wales.“Fracking is the old way of doing things. It’s time to throw out the solutions of the past.”“Instead we should amend land use planning legislation to fast track community owned energy schemes, with a presumption in favour of development.“A Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would ensure resources from Wales are used sustainably, to tackle climate change and develop a post carbon economy.“We would transform our energy policy to place the interests of Welsh communities at the heart of everything we do.”
 Cllr Carrie Harper, who met with Wrexham anti-fracking campaigners on Monday, added:
"Fracking and other unconventional gas and oil drilling is something that's been of concern to people in Wrexham since a licence was granted to test drill in the Borras area. There was strong opposition from local residents and anti-fracking campaigners that saw a camp being set up to oppose the threat to our water, safety and environment. 
 "I'm glad a Plaid Cymru AM is aiming to strengthen the legal position of the Assembly to ensure we don't see this threat emerging again."


Budget cuts proposals leave residents in the dark


Residents and councillors are being kept in the dark over Wrexham Council's planned cuts.

That's the view of Plaid Cymru councillors, who have challenged elements of the council leadership's proposed budget cuts.

Plaid Cymru group leader Marc Jones said: 
"The public consultation lasts until the end of November and local residents are being asked their views on a range of proposals that could save the council £4.2m. But the council is having to make £6.2m in savings next year so the full range of cuts have not been presented to either councillors or the general population.

"When challenged, officers stated that any shortfall would be addressed in January, but that will be too late for the public to have their say. Plaid Cymru councillors believe the public should have all the options on the table to make an informed decision rather than being kept in the dark about a significant part of any potential cuts.
"We're told this is about 'difficult decisions' and yet there is nothing in the budget cuts proposals about councillors or senior management sharing in these cuts. Councillors shouldn't be immune from the cuts, but it seems that is the situation in Wrexham.
"The emphasis in these proposals is very much on cutting frontline services and expecting the most vulnerable - the young, the old and disabled - to pay more."
The council's Executive Board agreed yesterday to consult with the public over a five-week period about a range of cuts to services and proposals to increase charges for users.

Cllr Jones said the Plaid Cymru group of councillors would be putting forward alternative proposals and said they welcomed input from council workers, service users and everyone with a positive suggestion to maintain and improve frontline services: 
"In the past, council staff have seen consultants being paid millions to state the obvious in terms of savings. If council staff and service users want to talk to us in confidence about alternatives to these punitive cuts they believe could be made, then our door is open - contact us at plaidwrecsam@gmail.com or text or call me on 07747 792441."

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Plaid Cymru slate Tories for "callous approach to welfare reform"

88% of Wrexham council tenants transferred to Universal Credit to date are in rent arrears. Those were the worrying figures given to councillors recently at Wrexham's Housing and Environment Scrutiny Committee. 

Plaid Cymru's Carrie Harper who sits on the committee and represents the Queensway ward in Caia Park said: "The figures we have to date reflect the relatively small number of claimants transferred but we expect that number to rise sharply this month following the accelerated roll out of the scheme locally. Unfortunately, looking at figures from England where there has already been full roll out, having this level of council tenants in arrears following the transfer is the norm. There is also concern about the impact on private tenants as well, who won't have access to as much help and advice."

"We estimate that approximately 7000 households across Wrexham will ultimately be affected by this. The transfer of housing benefit claimants to Universal Credit is a particular concern due to the excessive payment delays people are experiencing. People are often waiting 6 weeks or more for their claims to be processed, meaning that rent arrears increase significantly over that period, leaving many without access to any money at all. In other areas where roll out is accelerating, charities are warning about increases in food bank usage and a spike in loan sharks targeting communities. I fear we will be facing similar issues here as the Tories seem determined to plough on with this flawed scheme, despite warnings from all quarters about the detrimental impact it's having. How they can ignore the misery they're inflicting across the UK with this callous approach to welfare reform is beyond me".

"The indifferent attitude of this spiteful Tory Government to the suffering of others has unfortunately become a familiar theme. We see interview after interview of detached robotic spin from them on welfare reform, only surpassed by the vulgar displays of back patting  in the House of Commons from the likes of Ian Duncan Smith who ushered this scheme in, as he smugly claims it will be a 'great driver for change'. Rather than driving change, Universal Credit is driving people into poverty."

If you are affected by the roll out of Universal Credit and would like further advice, you can contact the Universal Credit helpline directly but please be aware calls are still charged at 55p per minute from a mobile and this will remain the case for several weeks.

Alternatively please get in touch with Contact Wrexham based on Lord Street on 01978 29200. If you're a council tenant you can also get advice from your local estate office, please see contact numbers below:

Broughton Estate office - 01978 722020
Caia Estate office - 01978 317040
Gwersyllt Estate office -  01978 722100
Plas Madoc Estate office - 01978 813000
Rhos Estate office - 01978 832500
Wrexham Central Estate Office - 01978 292062

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Labour Government blamed for nursing shortage at Maelor hospital

 
A growing shortage of nurses in Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital has been highlighted in the Assembly by Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM.

Llyr Gruffydd AM raised his concerns with First Minister Carwyn Jones during questions in the Assembly chamber, saying that the Welsh Government should bear direct responsibility for this failure.

He said: “Latest statistics show that there are 92 nursing posts vacant in Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital at the moment with a growing number of nurses approaching retirement age.

“This shortage is leading to specialist nurses having to work on general wards and to staff being stretched to the limit. At its worst, it will mean ward closures. This is a daily and intensifying crisis in the hospital, the largest in north Wales.

“In an attempt to remedy the situation, Betsi Cadwaladr health board have used a private agency to recruit abroad, going to Barcelona and India in recent years. In both cases, the benefits have been questionable. Only four nurses from India passed the language test, for example. This is a short-term panic measure not a long-term thought-out strategy.

“Will the First Minister accept that the Welsh Government, which has been directly running Betsi Cadwaladr health board for two and a half years now, is responsible for failing to adequately plan to ensure there are enough nurses being trained and recruited here in the North for local hospitals?”

Mr Gruffydd has welcomed the fact that nurse training had re-started at Glyndwr University and praised the university for its pro-active approach to a serious problem for the NHS in north Wales. He was, however, critical of the Welsh Government and Betsi Cadwaladr for not allowing those students to go on placement to NHS settings in Wales.

He added: “We have 35 trainee nurses who are being trained in Wrexham. In a short time, they could be filling the gaps in the workforce in the Maelor hospital and elsewhere in the North. But instead of providing them with placements, obstacles have been put in their way to the extent that they are having to be placed in Chester, Telford and private nursing placements.”

Carwyn Jones's response is, to put it kindly, misleading. He conflates healthcare training with nursing degrees and his claims that there is increased training completely misses the point that much of that increase is down to Glyndwr University's new course. These trainees, of course, are the ones barred from getting placements in hospitals in Wales because of Welsh Government rules. Unless that's reversed, we will see these nurses lost to the NHS in Wales. 


Supply teachers short-changed by Welsh Government policy

Supply teachers and schools are being short-changed by a failing Welsh Government, according to Plaid Cymru.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s shadow secretary for education and children, has called for the Welsh Government to urgently re-think its policy after revealing that a private agency is taking almost a third of supply teachers’ pay.

New Directions Education Ltd is a Cardiff-based firm that provides supply teachers to a number of schools in Wales and England. It retains about 30% of the money paid by schools for the supply teachers, money that previously went directly to the teachers. It also pays its two directors a dividend of £100,000 apiece and both shared a further £430,000 dividend from the firm's parent company.

Now, as a result of a Welsh Government agreement, more and more councils are instructing schools to only use New Directions rather than employing supply teachers directly. This has prompted concerns that money from the education budget is effectively being siphoned off to the private sector.
The company, which is owned by Jeffrey and Zoe Tune, both of Cyncoed in Cardiff, were last year responsible for employing 1300 of Wales’s 4,900 supply teachers.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s shadow secretary for education and children, said: 
“I’ve been approached by a number of very demoralised supply teachers, including a constituent who was earning £115 a day as a supply teacher. She’s had a letter from Denbighshire Council to say that all schools must work through New Directions, with a few exceptions, and that will mean her pay is cut to £85.

"Another is considering giving up a job he's done for 18 years because of the drastic cut in pay and lack of any personal development or pension payments. It's demoralising teachers."

Plaid Cymru has condemned the Welsh Government for failing to do more to ensure money for education remains in the system rather than backing a private company providing supply teachers throughout Wales.

Llyr Gruffydd said: “Back in 2015 a report by the National Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee agreed that a more strategic approach was needed for supply teachers, suggesting an all-Wales model based on Northern Ireland’s system or a cooperative. That decision was kicked into the long grass by the then Government and since then private agencies have flourished. This has intensified with an all-Wales agreement with a single agency, New Directions Education Ltd.

“The agreement with New Directions comes to an end in August 2018, which should provide an opportunity to deliver a new service that keeps education money in the public sector rather than private pockets. But we now learn that the Welsh Government and Kirsty Williams have decided not to introduce a new model for supplying temporary teachers until 2019. In a letter to the education committee, the cabinet secretary explains she won’t be introducing a new model because the Assembly does not yet have control over teachers’ pay and conditions.

“This, frankly, is a poor excuse for doing nothing and kicking the issue into even longer grass.

"Plaid Cymru would like to see a not-for-profit agency set up as in Northern Ireland or a cooperative for supply teachers to coordinate with schools and local authorities. This kind of model would ensure more money goes directly to the teachers, would keep money in the education system rather than spent on dividends and create a degree of flexibility for schools and teachers alike."




Monday, 2 October 2017

HMO conversions rejected by Wrexham planners

61 Regent St - application to turn offices into a HMO was turned down tonight


Tonight's planning committee lasted three hours, partly because of two contentious applications for Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in Wrexham town centre.

The two planning applications before the committee were:

45 Alexandra Road in the Offa ward. This is a three-bed terraced house that the owner wants to turn into a four-bedsit HMO.

and

61 Regent St in the Brynyffynnon ward. This is currently an office on the main road into Wrexham (opposite the Sorting Office) which the owner wants to turn into a HMO for five people.

Both local members, who are part of an informal grouping of town-centre councillors, argued passionately against the applications.

The argument against turning Regent St into a HMO was two-fold. Firstly it would disrupt an established row of offices, placing residential dwellings amid a business setting. In a fragile economic climate it was felt by many that this would not help local business confidence.

 Secondly, and crucially, the available amenity space for five people's bins, washing and relaxation space outdoors was a pathetic 10.7m2. The point was made that HMOs often cause problems because tenants are boxed in with inadequate space and not treated like human beings. By contrast, anyone looking to build a new three-bedroom house would be expected to provide a 50m2 garden or amenity space. This was essentially expecting people to "relax" in a car park.

The vote against granting planning permission was unanimous.

Alexandra Road saw similar arguments being rolled out, but Offa ward has a crucial difference - 11% of its houses are already homes with multiple persons, a slightly different definition but an indication of the pressures facing the densely packed terraces in the area. Landlords have looked to cram as many bodies in as possible to maximise profit.

 Cllr Alun Jenkins explained how 57 out of 300 homes in the Bersham Road area were already HMOs - about 20%. This is double the accepted threshold of the Welsh Government, but the council's lack of a clear policy on this makes decisive action difficult. At present the council opts for a 10% threshold within a 50m radius, which is random to say the least and often misses the 'feel' of a neighbourhood. There was also concern that many HMOs are not licensed - 'beneath the radar' or exempt from licensing because they're run by charities or Registered Social Landlords.

Opposition centred on a lack of parking - four bedsits could easily mean four cars outside a terraced house. The vote to reject was again convincing but there was a warning from chief planning officer Dave Williams that future appeals against such decisions could easily mean costs being awarded against the council.

 HMO planning applications are now a monthly occurence here in Wrexham and it appears the rate is increasing.

 This is partly because the Welsh Government insisted that any HMO with more than three people had to be licensed, whereas prior to 2016 it was six or more people. The Welsh Government also allowed local councils the power to develop their own policy towards HMOs - something Wrexham Council is still working towards. In the meantime, we continue to see Welsh Government Planning Inspectors overturning decisions made by local representatives. Something has to give.

But it's also to do with a lack of affordable housing, especially in the public sector. Councils must start building affordable homes so that people aren't forced to rent substandard bedsits at extortionate rates. This is part of Plaid Cymru's local manifesto to tackle the housing problem.

Check out where licensed HMOs are located on the register.




New hope for stranded village as rail bosses visit

Plaid Cymru AM raises community concerns

A village left stranded because of a faulty railway bridge is hoping that a high-level visit by Network Rail officials will resolve the problem.

Villagers at Sydallt near Wrexham have been left without a bus service because the Oak Alyn railway bridge connecting the village has been narrowed because of fears for the structure.

The bus being used for the service between Mold and Wrexham was too wide to negotiate the narrowed bridge and re-routed the service, leaving villagers without public transport. Some villagers have been forced to use taxis at a cost of up to £150 a month because there is no bus.

Gwersyllt Community Council took up the matter after concerns were raised by Councillor Sharon Thomas and contacted Plaid Cymru’s regional AM Llyr Gruffydd.

He, in turn, raised the matter with Network Rail’s senior management team in Cardiff, who came out on Friday to see the problem for themselves.

Llyr Gruffydd said:
“I’m glad senior managers have seen the problem for themselves and local residents were able to explain to them directly how this issue has impacted on the community. There was agreement that Network Rail needed to do some exploratory work to assess how sound the structure was and, if necessary, to re-prioritise its bridge maintenance programme.
“We were given assurances that an engineer would carry out an intrusive survey to assess corrosion on the bridge and that could see the bridge deemed safe enough to widen again. This would enable the bus currently being used for the Mold-Wrexham service to come back to Sydallt.
“I’ll be working with Gwersyllt councillors Sharon Thomas, Gwenfair Jones and Arfon Jones to make sure the promises made are kept and work begins as soon as possible on the bridge.”
Community councillor Sharon Thomas added: 
“I was thankful for the opportunity of a meeting with Network Rail and Wrexham Council on the bridge following the ongoing support of Gwersyllt Community Council, Llyr Gruffydd and Plaid Cymru on this issue. I was also keen for local residents and bus users to be directly involved and given the opportunity to have their say on this matter.
“Following the positive meeting that took place I look forward to the joint work on the bridge and surrounding area taking place between Network Rail and Wrexham Council to bring about much-needed improvements, and enable the current bus service to access Tan yr Allt again. I hope the work will commence sooner rather than later, so local residents are not inconvenienced any longer than is necessary.”

Llyr Gruffydd AM meets with local residents Percy Matthias and Gail Hughes on Sydallt's Oak Alyn bridge together with Gwersyllt community councillors Sharon Thomas, Gwenfair Jones and Arfon Jones. Others present included Roger Davies from Wrexham Council and various senior managers from Network Rail.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Calls for Wrexham Minister to "take a lead" and withdraw license for radioactive mud dump off the Welsh coast

Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs Leslie Griffiths is facing growing calls to withdraw a license which will allow hundreds of thousands of tonnes of radioactive mud to be dumped off the Welsh coast. 

The mud, which would be brought from England when the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station is built and dumped off the Cardiff coast, is causing growing concern from experts and politicians alike. 

Plaid Cymru Wrexham spokesperson Carrie Harper said: "Experts are warning that communities along the Welsh coast could be exposed to doses of marine radio activity if this radioactive mud dump goes ahead. If that's not a good enough reason to immediately withdraw this license pending further investigation into the dangers, I don't know what is. I'd respectfully urge the Minister Leslie Griffiths to take a lead on this."

"In Wrexham, we have already experienced what it's like to be failed by Welsh Labour Minsters and used as a dumping ground. We are reminded every summer by the putrid smell of Hafod Quarry in Johnstown, which is used to dump rubbish from Merseyside despite huge local protests. One of her predecessors Carwyn Jones,  Environment Minster at the time, refused to step in and help us then. I hope the current Minister does not continue the tradition of failing Welsh communities on such a key health and environmental issue."

The license allowing the dumping of 300,000 tonnes of polluted mud off the Welsh coast was agreed in 2013, with French firm EDF energy undertaking the project.

A petition calling for the Welsh Government to direct Natural Resources Wales to suspend the license can be signed by clicking  HERE


Right to be Welsh?

.


Every year I receive a household reminder form in order to check who is eligible to vote at my address. Every year the nationality of everyone in our house is listed as “British” by default. Every year I contact electoral services to request everyone at this address be registered as Welsh. This year there was an option to change it to Welsh online, great I thought, so I happily amended the details for all 3 of us. I also contacted electoral services to query why the system annoyingly defaults back to British every year. The response was as follows:


“The Electoral Commission’s advice on this is:  

Whilst individuals may choose to write their nationality on a canvass form as ‘English’, ‘Welsh’ or ‘Scottish’ their nationality should be recorded on the Electoral Registration Officer’s systems as British.

This is because the nationality that is relevant for registration purposes is ‘British’ as set out in the British Nationality Act 1981.”


So for the last several years at least, it seems I have been wasting my time , along with many thousands  of other people I’m sure across Wales, Scotland and England,  asking to be  registered under my identity of choice.  In my naivety I thought the system would be updated with this information but it would seem it is actually completely ignored because of Electoral Commission guidance. That begs the question, why give people the option to enter their own identity at all? It would seem this is just a token gesture to appease. Literally a meaningless tick box.

Does it matter anyway? Well yes I think it does. Identity is not something anyone can or should impose on someone else, it’s a choice. I respect the fact that people may choose to be registered as British, some may prefer Welsh British and that’s up to them but me, well I’m just Welsh thank you very much. Having spent some time mulling over identity issues, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I have no idea what being  ‘British’ actually means, I don’t identify with that term and it doesn’t have meaning for me in my daily life.  For instance, one of the biggest symbols of Britishness is undoubtedly the Union Jack , Wales is not represented on that flag so what is it supposed to mean to me? In what way would I identify with it? Being Welsh however is just a given, that’s what I am, it’s who I am, however unofficial.  I suspect that many others in Scotland and England would share that sentiment.

For now at least  though, it seems  that I have no right to be registered as a Welsh person, there is no right to be Scottish or English either, a British identity will be forced on us all whether we like it or not, dictated by an act of Parliament that is almost 4o years old and an ideology going back a lot further.