Monday, 16 March 2020

Critical that Wales has leadership over coronavirus


Pressure is mounting on the Welsh Government to devise a better strategy than to simply follow the questionable Westminster line in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

As Scotland and Ireland have ramped up community testing and the World Health Organisation (WHO) reiterates its advice is to test and isolate, the Welsh Government has up to now staggeringly followed England and closed our test centres. This is even harder to understand given the higher risk posed to Wales due to our larger elderly population, higher poverty levels and the fact we have the lowest number of critical care beds in the UK.

In response to growing concerns about the Welsh Government response, Plaid Cymru Councillors in Wrexham have signed a statement along with other politicians, trade unions, Independence campaigners, health workers and others calling for a change of approach by the country’s political leaders.

Councillor Carrie Harper who represents Queensway ward in Wrexham said:” The Welsh Government should not support the Tory Governments plans announced on Thursday to allow the virus to spread to 60%-80% of the population, which potentially means thousands of deaths here in Wales and has been heavily criticised by hundreds of scientists over the weekend. As a group in Wrexham, all our County Councillors have signed the statement calling for an urgent change of direction.”

“It’s critical we have leadership on this, as Ireland, Italy and France go into lockdown and close schools, restaurants and bars, Westminster’s response is rightly coming under increasing criticism worldwide." 

"Boris Johnson has also put many businesses in an impossible position following his latest announcement requesting people don’t attend bars and restaurants. The hospitality industry has felt it’s been thrown under a bus as many can’t claim on their insurance unless they’re ordered to close. Our businesses need clarity and leadership but they're sadly getting neither. ”

“ We now need increased testing in line with WHO recommendations and stronger measures put in place urgently. We also need a plan to look at increased health provision, mortgage holidays and rent support for our people. “

The statement which can be read in full below, also calls for a ban on tenant evictions, price controls on essential goods and a diversion away from military spending in order to release billions to deal with the growing crisis.




"Statement from left politicians, trade unionists, independence campaigners, health workers and others in Wales on the Covid-19 pandemic and how we should respond.

The Covid-19 outbreak poses a real and significant threat to the people of Wales, a country with a large elderly population and the highest poverty rate in the UK,
We are opposed to the strategy put forward by the UK government on Thursday of allowing the virus to spread to between 60% - 80% of the population, as the UK’s Chief Medical adviser has said. In this scenario, with just a 1% death rate, the virus could kill 25,000 people in Wales and almost half a million in the UK. But with the current death rate in Italy over 7%, we cannot know with any certainty how many would die here.
The ‘herd immunity’ plan - with no widespread testing or detection - is an historic mistake with potentially catastrophic consequences and one we must step back from immediately. We note the letter signed by 229 scientists from UK universities on Saturday which said the government's approach will put the NHS under huge stress and “risk many more lives than necessary.”
If this approach by the Conservative administration in London continues, the Welsh Government should not support it.
Instead, our approach must be one that prioritises saving lives and protecting the vulnerable above the needs of the market and the financial sector.
This must first and foremost involve effective measures to stop the virus spreading as well as a programme of aggressive testing and contact tracing, as called for by the head of the World Health Organisation.
Immediate funds must be released by the UK government to build emergency health care facilities and provisions. Private hospital & hotel beds should be requisitioned to meet soaring need and thousands of extra care & health workers hired. Childcare arrangements must be made for frontline workers. As the 5th richest country in the world, the UK has the ability to take bold action. But where powers are devolved, and if necessary, Welsh Government must be prepared to step in.
Among other measures, we call for: full universal sick pay, including workers on zero hours contracts; support for workers taking action to self-isolate; full trade union engagement; a ban on tenant evictions and utility ‘cut offs.’; rent & mortgage freezes for the infected; opposition to any racist scapegoating of Chinese, Asian, Italian or minority communities; emergency grants for those in serious poverty; the expansion of meals on wheels to feed the hungry; price controls on essential goods and other measures to help those most vulnerable. No one should profit from illness or death.
We support community action to help those affected and firmly believe that ordinary people are the solution to the crisis - there should be no unwarranted clampdowns on civil liberties.
The economy was fundamentally re-organised in the Second World War and we must do the same again now to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. To fund such a programme, sweeping measures such as a 20% windfall tax on the top 1% of earners, and a diversion away from military spending on arms, should be adopted to release billions in order to deal with the crisis. The health service, not banks, should be bailed out.
Finally, we cannot tolerate a situation where the financial and health cost of Coronavirus is pushed onto the shoulders of ordinary people, who have already paid the price for the financial crisis of 2008. Enormous sums of money are being hoarded by the super rich in offshore bank accounts. Keeping this money locked away at this time is unconscionable , and it is from these vast reserves of global wealth that we must tackle the pandemic.
This is a group set up with the sole purpose of advocating these demands in relation to the Coronavirus epidemic. An initial list of signatories to this statement includes:
To add your name and group or position (if any), email covidwalesresponse@gmail.com
All signed in a personal capacity:
Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru AM for The Rhondda
Darren Williams, Labour NEC and WEC
Emma Garson Branch Secretary, Cardiff County UNISON
Hillary Brown, Civil Rights Lawyer
National Board, Undod
Marianne Owen, Chair PCS Wales
Cerith Griffiths, Exec Council, Fire Brigades Union
Renata Medeiros-Mirra, Cardiff University College Union (UCU) Strike Committee
Rowan Hope Campbell, Cardiff UCU Strike Committee
Andy Williams, Cardiff UCU
Abyd Quinn Aziz, Plaid BME Section
Seb Viola - NHS Doctor
Miranda Thomas - General Practitioner
Helen Erasmus, Registered Midwife
Rob Thomas - Senior Lecturer, Cardiff School of Bio-Sciences & UCU
Pat Penketh, Ultrasonographer
Dan Evans - Desolation Radio
Sahar Al-Faifi, Anti-Islamophobia Campaigner
Sheila Jones, WASPI Women Campaign
Pete Davies Chair Cardiff County UNISON
Dawn Maxwell, UCU
Luzian Dominguez, Lecturer, Cardiff School of Modern Languages & UCU Executive
Katy Beddoe, UNISON Rep
Julie Shackso, Social Worker
Adam Johannes, Cardiff People's Assembly
Maggie Smith Labour
SC Cook, voice.wales
Sandra Holiday, Labour
Phil Holiday, Labour
Gwenno Dafydd
Colwyn Ewers, Labour
TJ Williams, Comedian
Chiara Poletti, PHD Student, Cardiff University
Glenn Page, Undod
Jonathan Paul Jones, Research Student, Cardiff University



Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Kronospan fire: Community concerns must be answered

Plaid Cymru councillors have called for an independent investigation into the recent fire at Kronospan and resulting health impacts on Chirk residents.

In a question to Wrexham Council's Executive Board, Plaid Cymru group leader Marc Jones asked:
"Following the latest fire at Kronospan and public concerns about its impact on health, and given Wrexham Council's role in coordinating the multi-agency response, what is the council's view regarding:
- carrying out an independent investigation with community representation into this fire and previous fires at the plant (17 in the past 18 years)
- establishing permanent air-quality monitoring around the site?"
Cllr Jones said he had spoken to several residents affected by the latest fire, which resulted in children being hospitalised: 
"People have told me how they were choking in their own homes as a result of the fire. Even a week later there was a very distinct acrid chemical smell in the air and there needs to be openness and transparency about any investigation. The Fire and Rescue Service has done its job in establishing the direct cause of the fire in the log yard but that then raises further questions that residents will want answers to in terms of monitoring and safety.

"This cannot be allowed to be swept under the carpet and that's why I want Wrexham Council to take a clear stance in calling for an independent investigation to make sure this kind of incident does not happen again and the health and wellbeing of current and future generations in the area is paramount."
In response Lawrence Isted said meetings had taken place with Kronospan, Labour and Tory politicians as well as NRW and the council to improve transparency and public confidence. He added that the council’s investigation into the fire will conclude by the end of April.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

A future for Rhosddu Vicarage

The old Rhosddu vicarage, aka Centre 67

by Councillor Marc Jones

In January, Wrexham Council’s Executive Board voted behind closed doors to demolish Rhosddu’s old vicarage.
 The decision was taken without any discussion with the local community or local councillor. The only option on the table was demolition, despite previous interest in purchasing the building for employment or turning it into apartments.
 Underlying the secret decision was a wider plan to develop the site behind - currently occupied by the council's adult social services department. The long-term intention is to vacate the site.
 As your local councillor, I'm very keen to see this wider site developed for council housing to meet the demand we have in the area. There are too many young families living in overcrowded or unsuitable accommodation who want to stay local due to work and family connections. There are 488 people on Wrexham's waiting list who have listed Rhosddu as an area they want to live in.
 I think that redevelopment can be done for the benefit of Rhosddu and also retain this important building. It's been empty for 15 years - far too long - despite offers on the building going back at least 6 years. Despite this, it's watertight and in relatively good condition.

As far as I can see, there are four options on the building:

1. Sell it to an interested party to bring it back into use (with a clause forbidding demolition)
2. Develop it for community use (a local community group could be able to access funds)
3. Incorporate it into any housing development (there are challenges in terms of costs with this)
4. If none of the above options work, demolition.

Keeping it empty for even longer is not an option, especially as the old Printworks on the other side of St James' Church has been lying idle under private ownership for a similar amount of time. 

 Now that this matter is out in the open, I'd like the community to have their say and for anyone with an interest in purchasing the building to come forward. 
 The threat of demolition still hangs over the building because the Executive Board decision still stands but assurances have been given that nothing imminent is planned. It's up to us as a community to make the case for an alternative or to find a better use for what is a very solid building with a new roof.

Send Wrexham Council a clear message by signing this petition 

Monday, 3 February 2020

Controversial housing plan rejected





Gwersyllt councillors' delight at planning vote

A controversial plan to build 82 houses on green fields above Summerhill has been refused this evening by Wrexham Council’s planning committee.

Plaid Cymru councillors who have campaigned locally on the issue are delighted with the decision.

Councillor Gwenfair Jones, county councillor for Gwersyllt West ward and Phil Rees, a community
councillor who is standing in the county council by-election for Gwersyllt North ward later this month, said that it was a great example of councillors working together, hand in hand with local residents (many of whom packed the gallery at the council chambers for the meeting) to get the best
outcome.

In a joint statement they said: 
“There’s overwhelming opposition to these plans among the local community and the council has made entirely the right decision. We’re very pleased that common sense has prevailed and that safety of the area’s residents has been put first. 
"The location, with narrow roads and a lack of suitable footpaths, was entirely inappropriate for a development of this size. Plans to narrow Summerhill Road by providing a footpath of sub-standard width would just have made the existing problems worse and put all road users at greater risk”.
Residents in Gwersyllt North ward go to the polls on Thursday 27th February to elect a new county
councillor. Cllr Phil Rees, the Plaid Cymru candidate, said:
“Tonight’s result shows what can be achieved by co-operating on local issues. I hope that residents will give me their support on the 27th and that we can continue to support them on important issues like this, and improve the area for their benefit.”

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Labour Minister Admits ‘Affordable Homes’ are Not Affordable

The Welsh Government Housing Minister has admitted that government financial support for affordable homes has been spent on homes that aren’t affordable to the majority of people in Wales.

Plaid Cymru’s housing spokesperson Delyth Jewell AM asked her to justify statistics that showed that 78% of homes that the Welsh Government counts toward its affordable homes target had sold for a price of over £150,000.

Out of these, 1,222 (or 17%) sold for over £250,000.

Challenging the Housing Minister in the Senedd, Delyth Jewell AM said:

“Minister, a staggering 78% of homes – that’s 5564 – sold through help to buy, sold for a price of over £150,000. Over 1,000 homes that you count as ‘affordable’ in the statistics  sold for over £250,000.

“I cannot see how any reasonable person can count these homes as ‘affordable’.

“Is this not statistical manipulation on an industrial scale?”

Responding, the Housing Minister Julie James said:

“I don't disagree at all that the definition of 'affordable' is unhelpful and rather more flexible than  we'd like in terms of what we're trying to do.

“And we've been very upfront about the numbers in terms of that, because I'm not disagreeing with the fundamental premise of what you're saying, which is actually we should build social housing or homes that actually are within people's range without having to have government help to get them there.

“But the current definition is that if you've had government help to get you into our house then it's an affordable home. So, I'm not going to argue with you. I don't disagree with the basic premise that you're saying, but the target we set included that definition and so it's being counted against that definition.”

Speaking after the exchange, Delyth Jewell AM said:

“It’s simply absurd that taxpayers’ money is being spent on supporting buyers to acquire properties that cost over £250,000.

“What this means in practice is that tax paid by people who can’t afford to buy genuinely affordable homes is being used to help affluent people to buy expensive properties and that developers are allowed to exploit our failing planning system.

“It’s effectively redistribution in reverse and it’s shocking that a Labour government deems this to be acceptable policy.

“A Plaid Cymru government would reform the Help to Buy system to prioritise low earners to get on the housing ladder, substantially increase the Welsh stock of social housing and allow communities a greater say in local development schemes.”

Potholes are still the main concern for local residents



'Temporary patching of potholes isn't working'

Concerns over potholes are the number one issue for residents who go to the polls next month to choose a new county councillor.
Phil Rees, who’s standing as the Plaid Cymru  candidate in the Gwersyllt North By Election for Wrexham Council, said: 
“Residents have been raising a wide range of issues such as the lack of a bus service in Sydallt, and the proposal for 82 houses on narrow roads in Summerhill, but the universal complaint, and usually the first to get mentioned, is the state of our roads.”
“Residents are quite rightly frustrated at the temporary nature of repairs. They’re telling me that some of the repairs haven’t been fit for purpose and in the case of two locally - outside Ysgol Heulfan and in Sydallt (pictured) - have lasted no more a few weeks”.
“I’ve reported those this week and I know that the Community Council are currently in touch with Wrexham Council about these and a number of others in the area.
Residents are complaining that these makeshift repairs are not the best use of their money. And if we’re going to get on top of this issue, we need longer-lasting repairs that will at least last until the road can be properly re-surfaced, or we’re just going to keep coming back time after time to carry out the same patching jobs."
The county council by-election takes place on February 27. Nominations for the by-election have to be submitted by Friday.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Chirk demands cleaner air

Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd joined local protesters outside Kronospan's gates this weekend for a protest demanding cleaner air for Chirk.



Local residents have also been commenting on the petition demanding an independent inquiry into recent fires at Kronospan:

Monday, 20 January 2020

Independent inquiry needed to safeguard health and jobs at Kronospan - Plaid AM

Petition launched demanding action

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has called for an independent inquiry into the fire at Kronospan in Chirk, stating that safeguarding local residents’ health was paramount in order to move forward. He also called for permanent independent air-quality monitoring equipment to be located around the plant.

Mr Gruffydd said:
“This latest fire is the most serious in a series of recent incidents at the plant. The plant's chairman Mike McKenna conceded in last Thursday’s town council meeting that there had been three separate fires within the past three years, all in different parts of the plant.  
“Despite numerous fires and the concerns of local residents, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) only brought in mobile air quality monitoring equipment on January 15th and the town council heard that Formaldehyde had been detected in initial samples.

“This is very concerning given that initial reports stated that only virgin timber had been affected rather than any treated timber. Thermal imagine cameras designed to prevent overheating timber in the logyard clearly didn't work. Both these issues should be investigated independently.

“Reports of children and a pregnant woman being hospitalised because of breathing difficulties are also very worrying and I would like clarity on that from the agencies involved. 
“The health and safety of local residents and workers at the plant is paramount. Providing real reassurance for the community would also be the best way to safeguard the hundreds of jobs at the plant and the impact the plant has on the local economy.

“NRW and Wrexham council are responsible for monitoring the plant and they, along with other agencies, confirmed that wood smoke alone can cause health problems. This is causing air pollution in the surrounding areas and rightly a cause of great concern for the health of vulnerable people, including children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems.

“It's important that both residents and workers are reassured after this incident. That's why we need a thorough and independent inquiry with community representation so that we can move forward. It's also vital that permanent air-quality monitoring is in place around the plant, not least because of the combination of large quantities of timber and chemicals on site.”
Mr Gruffydd said a petition calling for an independent inquiry had been set up and urged everyone to sign it.


Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Planning for the future - or for developers?

Here's a little example of how the planning system is broken.

The Plas Coch retail area is a very popular place to go shopping. It has one entry off Plas Coch Road, which is also used by the University, the Plas Coch pub, Ysgol Plas Coch primary school and surrounding residents. It's already a busy road and, at times, is gridlocked.

Over the past couple of years there have been several planning applications to develop the area. These have included:
  • Costa Coffee drive through
  • Extending the Plas Coch into a hotel
  • 400 new apartments on the University campus
These have all been assessed by the planning committee in isolation and the latter was passed despite the highways officer recommending refusal on the grounds of congestion.

At the same time, Ysgol Plas Coch has now been expanded to accommodate 315 pupils (it was originally built for 210) with resulting added traffic at pick-up times.

There are now two new planning applications that will have a serious impact on this part of town:
  • Plans for 455 new homes on the Stansty Chain Road - just the other side of the dual carriageway. These will be accessed via Mold Road as well as Stansty Chain Rd but anyone wanting to avoid the B&Q roundabout will doubtless be using the back road.
  • Just before Christmas plans for a 24-hour drive through McDonald's were submitted for the car park section in front of The Range. 
The cumulative effect of these developments, if passed, would be to increase traffic, increase pollution and clog up Plas Coch Road and surrounding areas for more and more of the day. It would be bad for local residents as well as local businesses - who wants to spend an hour in traffic to get to the supermarket?

But when the planning committee comes to decide on whether the new housing estate and the McDonald's should be allowed, they'll be unable to take into consideration the other pending application. They'll have to take them all on their own individual merits.

We're not planning for the future - we're allowing the planning system to be dictated to by those with the deepest pockets, who can pay experienced consultants to navigate the system. Local residents, by contrast don't have those resources.


Monday, 9 December 2019

Turnaround our town


A plan to improve Wrexham town centre

For too long, our town centre has been in decline. It's not unique in that respect - towns across the UK have suffered from a decade of cuts and hardship, changes in shopping habits and the rise in homelessness and drug misuse. 

It is a profoundly worrying decline and impacts on many businesses and jobs in the town centre. The problem is clear - too many empty shops, not enough to attract people into town, poor public transport, anti-social behaviour from a small minority and a visible homelessness issue that makes many people worry about their safety.

Every year, various agencies spend hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to manage the situation. To what extent can we use existing funding more effectively and access new funding to transform our town centre.

Plaid Cymru locally does not pretend it has a magic wand to remedy the situation overnight but we want to turnaround our town.

This starts with a series of practical measures:

1. Cutting business rates for small businesses
In its annual conference in October, Plaid Cymru passed a motion proposed by Cllr Carrie Harper to introduce far-reaching changes to the business rates system. It would enable us to alter business rates to provide better support for small businesses while expecting out-of-town shopping malls and large supermarkets to pay a differential rate. This is already the case in Scotland and is one practical way to reduce costs for local businesses.

2. Better bus services
Wrexham has lost half its bus services in the past three years. De-regulation of bus services has been a disaster with private companies picking and choosing the profitable routes while the council has a reducing budget to subsidise the rest. Welsh Government has not increased the Bus Service Support Grant for the past seven years and this has meant a reducation in services. Wrexham urgently needs more funding for improved bus services to bring people into town

3. Trial free parking
The council already offers free parking in the run-up to Christmas and on special occasions. It needs to be more radical. While we seek to improve public transport, a more immediate impact would be to trial free or reduced parking in council car parks for six months. This would also have the knock-on effect of reducing parking on residential streets around the town centre.

4. Dealing with drugs
Hundreds of thousands of pounds each year is spent in Wrexham to maintain the current services for drug and alcohol misuse. It does not address the root cause of addiction and we believe prohibition of drugs has been a failure. The ease with which drugs can be purchased in any part of the UK demonstrates that. We support the work done by Police and Crime Commission Arfon Jones to tackle the drugs issue by making it a medical rather than a criminal problem. We would use the money saved by doing this to improve drug and alcohol rehabilitation and detox programmes to enable people to instantly access these services rather than go on a waiting list. 

5. Safer streets
Plaid Cymru is committed to the devolution of criminal justice, as is the case in Scotland and Northern Ireland. A Plaid Cymru government would increase police numbers and ensure an extra two police officers per community - a significant and visible presence for areas such as our town centre. We will turnaround our town by making it a safer place to enjoy shopping, leisure facilities and food and drink outlets.

6. Shelter the homeless
Tackling homelessness needs to be two-fold. In the short-term, Wrexham has a night shelter but it also needs a day shelter for people without homes. This could be used to store clothes and personal possessions safely as well as providing cover from bad weather and accessing services more effectively. In the longer term we need to provide housing for all our residents and that means increasing the number of council houses we build as well as ensuring that all new housing developments have an element of affordable housing. All too often, developers have opted for maximum profit rather than community benefit.

7. Pride in our town
Wrexham people want to be proud of our town. We've had a few knocks over the years but we will fight back because we want to turnaround our town. We have a proud history and heritage, we have some stunning architecture and real characters, we have a thriving music and cultural scene as well as a sporting heritage second to none. 
 We have worked with others to ensure Wrexham's place as the spiritual home of Welsh football has been recognised - our plan for a national football museum is coming to fruition after a long campaign. We can also be proud of the recognition that Focus Wales gives the town as well as numerous unique venues such as Ty Pawb, Undegun and Saith Seren. 
 We will continue to work with anyone who wants to turnaround the town and make it somewhere to shout about.



Sunday, 8 December 2019

Why I'm proud to come from Caia Park


With attention fixed on Wrexham for the upcoming General Election, my community of Caia Park has been in for a bit of a rough ride from UK tabloids and the press generally. Whilst many (understandably to a point) use Caia to put a spotlight on rising poverty levels and the impact of Tory austerity, there is a real danger that the genuinely rich character and flavour of our community is bypassed in favour of more attention grabbing poverty laden headlines.

Caia Park has recently featured in articles in the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Mirror, along with TV broadcasters Sky News focussing in on our patch as part of their election coverage. Each have highlighted rising poverty levels, many have used pictures of the Red Dragon derelict pub for a bit of added gloom (a building due to be refurbished imminently by the way) and some have even resurrected the 2003 so called ‘Caia Park riots’ to add to the picture of community living in deprivation, desperation and division.

This is not the Caia Park I know, far from it. It’s difficult not to be political about all this given the General Election is driving all this attention and the fact that I’m a Caia girl standing in that election for Plaid Cymru. Because of that, I’ve been told repeatedly that I can‘t have a quote in many of the press articles or be interviewed for the TV coverage. Luckily social media allows me to disregard that in favour of a bit of balance and have my say, so here we go.

I grew up in Caia Park and still live here, as do many members of my family and countless friends. I’m a Plaid county councillor for the Queensway ward in the heart of Caia which is so often the focus of attention and also a local community councillor here too. The recent press attention has been upsetting for many of the people I know and represent, as they feel vilified by the growing hate filled comments and the judgemental bias being levelled at them online. We are often painted by those who see themselves as a cut above as drug fuelled scroungers, who are lazy and uneducated. Other commenters revel in offering their profound and often sarcastic advice to those living in poverty regarding finding cheaper bags of pasta, or getting a couple of pence off tinned food. It makes my blood boil.

I know better of course but that doesn’t make reading some the online comments any less infuriating. Far from the grim press image, my community is in fact a complex network of families and friends who stick together in tough times. We all know each other too. Like so many others living here, my Mum and Dad live around one corner, my Gran in the next street and my brother down the road. As well as knowing my immediate neighbours, I’ve probably got a connection with someone on most streets across Caia Park, we all have. We have a powerful sense of community that many across the UK would envy.

On a professional level, I can also tell you that my community doesn’t wait around for the often distant powers that be to arrive to address many of the day to day challenges we face. We get on and do it. I could give you countless examples over the years where this community has worked together to address so many wide ranging issues, whether it's clearing up litter to tidy up a local field, looking out for scammers targeting our elderly neighbours, or organising food pick ups for struggling families on Christmas Eve, we get on and we do it.

In fairness to the local council, of which I'm a regular critic, huge amounts have been invested into housing locally. Over the last decade thousands of rooves have been replaced, new kitchens and bathrooms installed, solar panels fitted in many homes and a programme of work to replace fencing and overhaul gardens has begun. The ward I represent is 70% council housing and although there is still work to do, the estate is currently looking a lot better than I ever remember it growing up.

So yes we have rising poverty levels here thanks to Tory austerity, much of it impacting on families who are in work as well as those who are not. It’s heart-breaking to see people left with literally not a penny in their bank accounts for weeks on end thanks to Universal Credit and welfare reform. It’s also heart warming and shattering in the same breath to see someone split a days food parcel with their sister because neither have any other way to get a meal.

The poverty is very real for some and it is undoubtedly a disgrace that almost half our children in several Caia Park wards are living in poverty in 2019. But to only see that perspective would give you a purely black and white view of a proud community that is in fact vibrant and full of colour.

When people ask me where I’m from, I tell them I’m from Caia Park with my head held high.


Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Complaining councillors told by Ombudsman: GROW A THICKER SKIN

Statement by Cllr Marc Jones regarding complaint about liking a Facebook comment
For the past 18 months, since Plaid Cymru councillors challenged Wrexham Council's Executive Board over its use of Kingdom, we have faced a sustained attempt to silence us.
A few councillors in the ruling coalition have scoured our social media to try to find fault. They have screen grabbed page after page of material and passed it on to the council's monitoring officer, without success.
Last month a complaint was submitted to the Ombudsman about a Facebook comment I 'liked' back in August. The complainant was the council leader Mark Pritchard, on behalf of 11 anonymous councillors who were “hurt” by this.
The initial post was about the council's decision to spend £22,000 on resurfacing the councillors’ car park back in August.
One person responded with “what a shower of tw*ts”.
I ‘liked’ that comment.
I understand there was an attempt to get all 31 councillors in the ruling coalition to sign up to this official complaint. Only a minority did and at no time did anyone contact me directly or via the council's internal mediation process regarding the post.
The Ombudsman has now written to me to say he will not be investigating the complaint and has effectively told the council leader to 'grow a thicker skin'.
I regret liking the remark. I'm in a public position where that kind of abusive language should not be encouraged.
But I also regret that the Executive Board is more concerned with the "hurt" they feel from a liked comment than the real hurt they have caused in cutting jobs, closing services, shutting down life opportunities and failing to deal decisively time after time with the issues that bother Wrexham people.
The Plaid Cymru group of councillors - Gwenfair Jones, Carrie Harper and myself - have been consistent in standing up for our residents in Gwersyllt West, Queensway and Grosvenor wards. We've also played a full and active part on the council in terms of attending and contributing to scrutiny meetings, planning committees, workshops and task and finish groups. We have not been shy when this council's ruling Tory-independent coalition needs challenging and that's why we have faced this constant attempt to silence us.
There is a clear protocol within the council about dealing with complaints between councillors internally and informally before opting for the last resort of taking complaints to the Ombudsman. The council leader and the other 10 councillors failed to adhere to that protocol and, instead, opted to go straight to the Ombudsman.
I'm glad the Ombudsman has decided not to investigate the complaint.
We’re not going away, we won’t be silenced, we’re not taking a backward step. We will hold this ruling Executive Board to account on behalf of the people of Wrexham.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Red Dragon to be refurbished as Co-op store


The Red Dragon on Prince Charles Road is due to be converted into a Co-op store, with a planning application having been submitted to Wrexham County Council.

Local councillor for the Queensway ward Carrie Harper said: “ I’ve been working with the team behind this project for some time now and am delighted the project will soon be going to the Planning Committee for approval. I’ll be supporting it wholeheartedly and am glad we can now announce it publicly for the first time following a lot of negotiation with the council.”

“The Red Dragon building has been deteriorating for some time and its central position in the ward have sadly made it an eyesore in recent years. I know locally the community will welcome the fact it’s being refurbished and will look forward to the work starting. The current Coop store we have is extremely well used and I’m sure local shoppers will also appreciate the extra choice a bigger store will bring. It’s fantastic news.”

Vanessa WarBrick from Northold Group said: “We are pleased to confirm that with the help and support of the local councillor, we have now submitted a planning application to convert and extend the vacant public house, formerly known as the Red Dragon on Prince Charles Road in Wrexham. Our application is to convert the vacant pub into a convenience store, which will be operated by the Co-operative, and the new store will replace their existing shop on Prince Charles Road.

The pub has been vacant and boarded up since previous attempts to revitalise it in 2011, and after working closely with local councillor, Carrie Harper, who has been instrumental in assisting us with our proposals, we believe that we have designed a new store, that is both in-keeping with the existing building and its surroundings, and will also benefit the local community.

If our application is successful, the new and improved store will help to create additional jobs in the town, due to a larger store being created, there will be a better product offering on sale, which gives customers an improved shopping range available locally, in addition to a better parking provision.

We are hopeful that our proposals will be well received by the planning authority and local community, so that we can bring life back into a building, which has lay empty for quite some time."




Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Betsi to force nurses to extend shifts for no extra pay


Challenge to health minister: Which side are you on?

Last night Betsi Cadwaladr health board decided to force nurses and HCSWs to extend their shifts for no extra pay. The plan is to enforce an extra 30 minute unpaid break per shift, even though many nurses don't have time to take their breaks as it is.

The decision will save an estimated £25,000 a month... just 2% of the £1.1million it spends on agency nursing each month.

For this tiny amount of financial saving, it is willing to destroy the goodwill of nursing staff that keep our NHS working.

One in 10 nursing posts in BCUHB are currently vacant, meaning overstretched staff are having to work extra anyway. Many have told Plaid Cymru that they already work through their shifts or are on call in case of an emergency. This suits senior management, which has seen the opportunity to squeeze and extra few hours of unpaid cover from them rather than employ extra staff.

We have also been at the forefront of fighting alongside nurses and unins to stop this scheme because it damages morale in a workforce already on the brink. Many nurses have said they will quit, retire early or take sick leave if this scheme is introduced.

Plaid Cymru and the unions have fought this tooth and nail and the battle is not over yet. The plan is meant to be introduced in January 2020.

Health minister Vaughan Gething has direct control over Betsi. It's been under the Labour Government's direct control for more than four years after being put in Special Measures. He has the power to overturn this.

Which side are you on, Vaughan?


Monday, 28 October 2019

Marbella, the management consultant and the scandal of the nurses' rotas





Last month, an anonymous letter sent to politicians and journalists raised questions about the extensive use of management consultants earning £1,000 a day or more at Betsi Cadwaladr Univerity Health Board.

Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd sent a request for clarification to BCUHB but was ignored for more than a month. He sent in a Freedom of Information request base don the anonymous tip-off.

He then raised the matter with the health minister Vaughan Gething.

One issue in particular was disturbing - that one of the management consultants was being paid £2,000 a day for work that involved making savings by extending nurses'r rotas by half an hour per shift to save on agency nursing.

The consultant in question was Phillip Burns, who the Daily Post reports is based in Marbella.

Llyr Gruffydd said

“The Freedom of Information response we’ve received shows that Mr Burns will receive £40,000 a month for his work in saving the health board money. One of his suggestions is to extend nurses’ shift for extra half-hour a shift without pay. This would save an estimated £25,000 a month according to the health board.

“It beggars belief that the health board have to resort to overpaid consultants to do this work. It also begs the question about why senior managers in the health board can’t find savings without putting additional pressure on overstretched nursing staff.

“BCUHB has a £42 million deficit and one in nine of its nursing posts is vacant. It’s paying a fortune on agency nursing costs because senior management can’t recruit or retain enough staff. 

"To make matters worse, BCUHB has been in special measures for the past four years and that means it’s under the direct control of the Welsh Government. I have challenged health minister Vaughan Gething and his predecessor Mark Drakeford (now Welsh First Minister) to explain how they are improving BCUHB because staff and patients on the ground are not seeing any significant improvements. 

"If we’re having to see costly consultants come in to run the show, then it suggests that senior management isn’t doing its job. Given that the health board is under the direct control of the Welsh Government, the buck stops with them.”