Wednesday, 20 March 2019

10,000 Wrexham women deserve better over state pension changes

Plaid AMs Elin Jones, Leanne Wood and Llyr Gruffydd with WASPI campaigners outside the Senedd today.
COMPENSATE THE WASPI WOMEN, SAYS PLAID
Plaid Cymru has said that 10,000 women in Wrexham and Clwyd South who have lost out over State Pension age changes should be awarded compensation for their losses. 

Plaid Cymru tabled a debate on the controversial changes in the Senedd today, with North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd stating that Plaid Cymru was “fully behind” the women campaigners.  

Thousands of women born on or after 6 April 1951 have had significant changes made to their State Pension age without them knowing.

The campaign Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is calling for “fair transitional state pension arrangements,” which they say translates into a ‘bridging pension’ paid from age 60 to the State Pension age. They also advocate compensation for losses for those women who have already reached their State Pension Age. 

An estimated 138,600 women in Wales are affected by these changes which has left thousands of women facing poverty, financial insecurity or ill health. They include 5,000 women in the Wrexham constituency and 4,600 in Clwyd South.

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said:

“Despite many paying full National Insurance Contributions all their working lives, these women have been told at the last minute that the pensions they had expected at age 60 would be delayed by up to six years. 

“This fiasco has caused retirement plans to be shattered and women who have planned and saved for their retirement are living on dwindling limited savings until they reach their new State Pension Age when the only income they will have left will be their State Pension. The consequences of this poor implementation and communication are likely to be poverty, loss of independence and financial security, or ill health.

“Women in Wales have been particularly hit hard by the British Government’s failures. Income per capita is lower than it is in other parts of the UK, and, on top of that, women in Wales earn less, on average, than the men of Wales.

“We know that we need to introduce equality in terms of the state pension age, but we need to do that over a longer time frame and give an opportunity to women to prepare properly for their future and in a way that doesn’t leave them in poverty and distress.
“Plaid Cymru stands with the WASPI women of Wales and the injustice that has been served upon them by the UK government.”

 

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Plaid MPs back call to end 'legalised theft' of miners' pension funds

Westminster must stop swindling former miners - Jonathan Edwards MP




Government must stop the 'legalised theft' of surpluses from miners' pension funds, accordingly to Plaid Cymru's Carrie Harper.

She's backing Plaid Cymru MPs, who are today joining former miners to hand in a 100,000-strong petition demanding a change in the process.

Cllr Carrie Harper said:
"The Mineworkers Pensions' Scheme is one of the largest pension schemes in the UK, providing benefits for almost 178,000 Scheme members. These include former miners as well as the widows of former miners - including many who worked in the North Wales coalfield at pits in Bersham, Gresford, Hafod, Llay Hall and Llay Main, Black Park and Point of Ayr amongst others. 
"The deal made when British Coal was privatised in 1994 allows the UK Government to take half the surplus in any given year, which means that money meant for retired miners goes into the Treasury pot. It's legalised theft and must be stopped."

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts MP and Treasury spokesperson Jonathan Edwards MP will today join mineworkers from across Wales, England and Scotland to present a petition to 10 Downing Street calling on the Westminster Government to review mineworkers’ pension arrangements.

Over the last three years, the mineworkers have secured over 100,000 on a petition calling for the Westminster Government to increase the share of the pension pot received by ex-miners.

Under a deal made in 1994 following the privatisation of British Coal, the UK Government agreed to underwrite the pension, but in return took a huge chunk of the surplus each year - with £750 million paid into Government coffers last year alone.

The results of the 2017 valuation showed the scheme to have a large surplus of over £1.2 billion. It is estimated that the UK Government have taken excesses of £8bn in dividends from the pension pot since privatisation.

In 2003 the then New Labour Government reviewed the scheme - but refused to adjust the 50/50 surplus-sharing arrangement.

The scandal has left retired pit workers receiving disgracefully low payouts averaging £84 a week, with at least 6,000 having had pensions cut.

The UK Mineworkers Pension Association for Justice and Fair Play is campaigning to get the 50-50 split of pension surplus re-negotiated.

The petition will be handed in to 10 Downing Street by ex-miners, including Ken Sullivan, Gareth Hughes, Emlyn Davies and Neville Warren who have campaigned on the issue in Wales.

Ahead of the hand in of the petition, Jonathan Edwards MP said:
“Miners spent years performing demanding labour to the detriment of their own health and to the benefit of the economy. In return successive Westminster Governments have fleeced them, year in year out.

“Our former miners and their widows deserve a fair share of their pension investment profits. It is absolutely inexcusable that the dividends of these pension pots are going to Westminster Treasury coffers and not to the people who actually produced this wealth in the first place.
 
“Handing this Mineworkers Pension Scheme petition in to 10 Downing Street tomorrow is more than a symbolic gesture – we are demanding that this Westminster Government stop swindling former miners out of money that is rightfully theirs.”

Friday, 22 February 2019

ITEC 'saving' has cost council £142,000

When Wrexham Council chose to close its successful ITEC training unit on Whitegate Industrial Estate, it claimed it would save money.

That's because the unit had been set a target by consultants to make a surplus of £100,000 a year above and beyond running costs.

Plaid Cymru councillors warned at the time that this saving was nothing of the sort. ITEC wasn’t making the £100,000 that PwC consultants had recommended so was deemed "loss making".

In reality it was making about a surplus that varied from year to year. The cost of closing the service has now been listed as £142,000 in this coming financial year and the loss will be felt year on year as well.

Much more could be said about this decision but it was made behind closed doors. Hopefully, promises of a more transparent council will mean we can debate these matters more openly in future.

It’s either madness or a running down of council services so that only the core statutory services are left.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

‘Rip it up and start again’ - call to reduce land for housing in LDP

Flawed housing figures come under fire

Councils across north Wales should have the right to think again about allocating greenfield sites for thousands of new houses, according to Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd.

He says new guidelines from the Welsh Government, which drastically reduce the amount of new housing expected for councils in north Wales over the next 20 years, show how badly they've got it wrong in the past.

The new regional guidelines published recently now expect housing need in the six councils across the North to grow far more slowly between now and 2037/8 than previously stated. The report states:
"In the first 5-year period (2018/19 to 2022/23) an average of between 1,000 and 1,800 additional housing units are needed annually in North Wales (with a central estimate of 1,600). By the mid to late 2030s (2033/34 to 2037/38) the estimates range between no additional housing units required (under both the low variant and zero migration) and up to a yearly average of 1,100 (with a central estimate of 400)."
So as few as 400 a year could be required across north Wales compared to 517 currently expected in just Wrexham under its current draft Local Development Plan.

By contrast, previous projections by the Welsh Government effectively forced Conwy and Denbighshire Councils to allocate land for thousands more houses, while Wrexham Council saw its entire Local Development Plan rejected because it didn’t allocate enough land for housing.

In 2011, the Welsh Government was insisting that councils plan for an extra 174,000 homes throughout Wales. In some parts of Wales - notably Cardiff and Wrexham - this would have meant a 37% and 22.5% rise respectively.

Wrexham's expected number of households was forecast to climb from 57,000 to 70,000 by 2039. By 2014, there was an acknowledgement that this figure was way too high and revised projections expected 67,000 houses in the borough, still an average of more than 500 new households a year over the next 20 years.

The new projections are only on a regional basis but they indicate a substantial drop in the expected average building levels across the six counties in the North.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, has questioned these population projections ever since he was elected in 2011 and has organised public meetings to challenge the need to build on greenfield sites to meet the stated demand.

He is also Plaid Cymru’s shadow planning minister and said: 
“Over the past decade, councils across the North have been pressured into adopting Local Development Plans based on high levels of growth and the consequent need to allocate land for thousands of new homes. Our contention has always been that these projections are based on a flawed analysis that depends too much on past growth rather than predicting future growth and specific local circumstances. “There is case to say ‘rip it up and start again’ because the LDPs are based on over-estimates of housing need. That would create a lot of additional work for hard-pressed councils but we need to look at de-allocating greenfield sites for housing before it’s too late. 
As we prepare for a National Development Framework for the whole of Wales, it’s vital that we take a bottom-up approach to community development rather than impose more unwanted and unrealistic targets on our local authorities. Part of the disconnect people feel with their national and local government is that developers rule the roost rather than communities. We have to redress that balance so that communities develop far more organically and provide the services, infrastructure and housing needed for the future.”

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

U-turn on disabled living grant welcomed by Plaid

Today sees a Plaid Cymru-initiated debate on the Welsh Independent Living Grant in the Senedd. 

Coincidentally, the Welsh Government yesterday announced it was pausing its controversial plans to axe the grant, which enables disabled people in Wales to live independently and manage their own affairs. The pause comes after relentless pressure coordinated by Wrexham campaigner Nathan Lee Davies and many others. The debate was intended to maintain the pressure on the Labour Government, which had decided to follow the Tory line in Westminster and axe the grant.

Responding to the decision by the Welsh Government to bring in revised arrangements for the Welsh Independent Living Grant, Leanne Wood AM, Plaid Cymru shadow minister for social justice said:
“The Welsh Government should just have the guts to admit it got this wrong from the very beginning. After the proposed changes are filtered through, we should have a situation where no disabled person has lost out on care. However, we will be spending considerably more money on administration and reviews to get to this point than if the Welsh Government had just adopted the Scottish and Northern Ireland approach of retaining the fund - as we argued for at the time. 
“The problems identified that have led to this suspension of the transition were entirely predictable and have caused disabled people a great deal of anxiety and stress. All because Welsh Labour have been too stubborn to listen to disabled people and their own party activists over the bureaucrats in local authorities."
Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru AM for North Wales, has campaigned on behalf of WILG recipients for the past year and said:
“Without the tireless campaign of disability activists such as my constituent Nathan Lee Davies, it’s unlikely this U-turn would have happened. Disabled people would have faced yet another significant cut to the support they have and a loss to their independence. “Questions have to be asked about why the Welsh Government made the wrong decision in the first place and what it really says about how much it listens to disabled people. Where has the government been before now in acknowledging its proposals wouldn’t work? 
"Coming twenty-four hours before Plaid Cymru’s debate to save the Welsh Independent Living Grant, they clearly did not relish defending their failed policy."

Friday, 8 February 2019

Anger as bus firm axes routes

Councillors and business owners have criticised a bus firm's decision to axe services in and around Wrexham.

Gwersyllt West Plaid Cymru councillor Gwenfair Jones has spoken out after Arriva Buses suddenly reduced services in the Gwersyllt and Summerhill area as part of a package of service cuts that will affect many parts of the town and surrounding villages.

Cllr Jones said:
"These cuts to services are the latest in a series of blows to the public transport network in Wrexham. It's clear that we need investment to ensure people can continue to rely on bus services in villages such as Gwersyllt and Summerhill as well as other parts of the borough affected by these changes.

"It's going to have an impact on many people who need to use buses to get to work, to shop, visit relatives or make hospital appointments."

She said the news came on the day that the Welsh Government announced £250,000 for improvements to Wrexham's bus station: "We've heard about plans to spend millions on a new transport hub in Wrexham and this latest capital spend of £250,000 on the bus station. It doesn't make sense in my view to be spending that sort of money on shiny buildings when the buses serving them are being axed. At this rate, we'll end up with a bus station that has no buses.

"The Welsh Government held a 'bus summit' in Wrexham two years ago and what has it delivered? Like many people shivering at bus stops, we're still waiting. People will rightly wonder what this Labour government is doing to develop better public transport in the Wrexham area as they see bus services decimated. Villages like Sydallt have been without any bus service for two years and they, like many others, deserve so much better."

A local businessman also joined in the criticism and urged a re-think.

Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said:

“We are shocked that consideration is being given to removing both bus services from this important route.

“Axing one service and re-routing the other would cause huge problems for relatives and friends who need to visit our residents, many of whom are elderly and frail, and for whom this would also be a bitter blow.

“It is also a vitally important means of transport for many of our staff and this proposal would make it hugely difficult for them to travel to and from work.

“There needs to be an urgent rethink to safeguard these services which are a lifeline for relatives, staff and the local community in Summerhill.”

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Raw Juice


Statement from Plaid Cymru councillor Marc Jones:

"All new businesses are a huge commitment and many fail despite the best of intentions.
That's why I've been supportive of Raw Juice on Rhosddu Road since it opened last year. Small businesses often survive on the hard work, enthusiasm and willpower of those who set it up.
"Leanne and Gareth put heart and soul into it because they believed in promoting healthy food and eating well. It was a first in Wrexham and I was delighted to see the old post office, which had also been a gym, turned into a compact but bright and attractive shop on our main road.
"I’m not exactly the target audience but the juices I tried were delicious and there was a small but very passionate and loyal clientele developing around the fledgling business. So I’m devastated that they’re talking of closing the door.
"For some months they’ve been in dispute with the council over descriptions and names of some products and that culminated in an interview under caution for breaching food regulations on health claims and names. The owners say that has contributed to the decision to close.
"At a time of growing concern about obesity, a crisis of diabetes and unhealthy eating, Raw Juice offered an innovative alternative to the fast-food takeaways in our town.
"Its closure begs many questions about how we as a society can permit fast food restaurants to sell kids unhealthy meals while penalising juice bars using raw fruit and vegetables.
"I won’t criticise the council’s staff - they have a job to do and work to regulations that large multinationals can operate within. But these regulations can ensnare small enterprises without the big budgets, glossy marketing and slick legal departments of the big chains. There are also inconsistencies in applying regulations in different council areas that have confused matters.
"So we have to think again about how we support small new enterprises, which are the future of our town’s retail sector. I hope Gareth and Leanne think again and Raw Juice stays open - for the good of Wrexham."

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

'SHAMEFUL': North Wales has the worst A&E waiting times in the UK

North Wales has the worst A&E waiting times in the UK, according to government statistics. The delays in seeing patients have been described as "shameful" by Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM.

Last month, only 77.8% of people were seen within 4 hours. This is the worst record yet for any December to date. The target is 95%.

Maelor Hospital, Wrexham is the worst-performing A&E in the United Kingdom with more than half of the people had to wait over 4 hours to be seen.

Ysbyty Glan Clwyd is at the bottom of the list throughout the United Kingdom for patients waiting over 12 hours. 700 people had to wait more than half a day or more to be seen in the emergency unit of that particular hospital in Denbighshire in December.

Nearly two thirds of patients wait more than a quarter of an hour in an ambulance outside the Maelor and Glan Clwyd Hospital.

In November, the number of people waiting more than 12 hours to be seen in Scotland was 250. In the whole of Wales - 3,900. There were 696 at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd alone. In Scotland 90% are seen within target time.

In his latest report, John Gittins, the North Wales Chief Coroner, says there is no indication that progress is being made, despite the fact that he has repeatedly voiced concerns. He also says that he was extremely concerned that the lives of patients were at risk as a result.

Over the last year, the coroner in the North has served a Regulation 28 notice to NHS Wales to prevent future deaths on four different occasions. In the reports in question, the coroner draws particular attention to concerns about ambulances being held back, staff shortages and delays in emergency departments.

Yesterday, before the Public Accounts Committee, Andrew Goodall, Chief Executive of NHS Wales admitted that the performance of the Betsi Cadwaladr emergency departments was unacceptable, and that it had worsened since the Board was set under special measures in June 2015 - partly as a result of A&E performance not being an area prioritised for initial intervention.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said:
“It’s shameful that two of the worst-performing A&E departments in the entire UK are in north Wales. That’s a damning indictment of the Welsh Government, which has had direct control over Betsi Cadwaladr health board for almost four years.

“Hard-pressed staff in A&E in Wrexham and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd are being pushed to the limit due to a failure by successive Welsh health ministers to deal with the recruitment crisis – we urgently need to train and recruit more nurses and doctors to deal with rising demand.

“While it’s clear that there are general issues with staffing throughout the NHS, I have to wonder how Scotland is managing to deal with A&E emissions to the extent that only 250 patients waited more than four hours throughout the country in November while the corresponding figure in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd alone was 696 in the same month?

“I share the North Wales coroner’s concerns about the state of the NHS in Wales. Plaid Cymru has been calling for the recruitment and training of 1,000 extra doctors and 5,000 nurses to make up the shortfall but the Labour Government has failed to take decisive action. It’s a disgrace that we have such bad management of our health service.”
By contrast with their appalling management of the Welsh NHS, Labour called for an independent investigation to waiting times in England in January 2018 following the previous winter crisis.

Plaid Cymru and The Royal College of Physicians have cited the following reasons for this crisis: Workforce rota gaps, a lack of bed space and the growing social care crisis are all contributing to a frustrating situation where many people are stuck in limbo because of blockages in the system... This is increasingly unmanageable.

Plaid Cymru would recruit a thousand doctors, present a GP out of hours service and re-open community hospitals closed under Labour.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Community celebrates 10th anniversary of luncheon club

Gwersyllt Luncheon Club - 10 years of serving the local community



It was 10 years ago this month when a number of Gwersyllt residents recognised the need for a local luncheon club and came together to form the Gwersyllt Luncheon Club.

 Since its formation in 2009, the club has served 4,132 two course meals over 178 separate sessions. The meals were provided once fortnightly, initially from Ysgol Heulfan and latterly from Ysgol Bryn Alyn and consist of high quality nutritious meals which cater for diabetics and gluten free choices.

Two of the founding members of the club were nurses Gwenfair Jones and her friend and neighbour Bethan Roberts. They are both still involved in providing the meals. Gwenfair Jones, who is now a Plaid Cymru county councillor for Gwersyllt West, said:

"We are very proud to have sustained this luncheon club over the last 10 years, which has provided a valuable service to scores of local people and we've played our part in reducing loneliness and promoting social inclusion and wellbeing to those who may otherwise be excluded and isolated.

She went on to say:

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank our volunteers, both past and present as well as the two schools, Adult Social Care for the initial core funding and Gwersyllt Community Council for the ongoing financial subsidy which helps to keep the costs down and the club sustainable.”

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Labour betraying Welsh NHS with creeping privatisation

New dialysis unit will be run by private sector

Labour’s commitment to the NHS in Wales has been questioned after it emerged that a new dialysis unit in north Wales will be run and staffed by a private firm.

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said: 
“Last year, the Labour Government in Cardiff was preparing to transfer skilled dialysis staff in Wrexham and Welshpool from the NHS to a private provider. Protests by nurses and Plaid Cymru forced the government to review their decision. Now, almost a year later than expected, existing staff will remain with the NHS but a new dialysis unit in Mold, Flintshire, is going to be built, equipped and staffed by a private firm.  
“It’s not the first – in the Betsi Cadwaladr region both Bangor and Alltwen dialysis units are already run by private companies and it was only a concerted campaign by trade unions, staff and Plaid Cymru AMs that prevented nursing staff in Welshpool and Wrexham from being transferred from the NHS to private employers.  
“This is the creeping privatisation of our NHS that Labour rails against in England but is complicit with in Wales. Nursing staff have told me that they fear for their terms and conditions if private companies continue to expand into this highly specialised field. Is this the ‘21st Century Socialism’ that Mark Drakeford proclaimed when he became First Minister?   
"Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS, will be turning in his grave at seeing his creation being undermined by his own party. Does Corbyn support Labour’s privatisation of the NHS in Wales? Wales deserves so much better than this.”

After working closely with our patients, staff, Commissioners and the Welsh Government, we are now satisfied that the highest quality and best value service delivery option to ensure provision of a safe, sustainable and affordable model of renal dialysis services for our communities across North Wales, will be to:  
·         Continue the delivery of services in Bangor and Alltwen with nursing staff employed and all equipment, any necessary refurbishments provided by an independent provider
·         Continue the delivery of services in Wrexham and Welshpool, with nursing staff employed by the NHS, with redevelopment of the Wrexham site and all equipment across both sites provided by independent provider
·         Develop a new satellite unit in the East area, which will be built, equipped and staffed by an independent provider

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Wrexham 'one of the worst places in the UK for GP recruitment'


Plaid Cymru has accused the Welsh Government of "sleepwalking to disaster" after health board officials described the ratio of GPs to patients in Wrexham as among the worst in the UK.

The admission came during a meeting on Wednesday of the Safeguarding, Communities and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, where Gareth Bowdler from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board explained that the average ratio of GP to population in North Wales was about 1800, which was higher than the UK average. He added that the ratio in Wrexham was even worse at more than 1:2000 and described the area as particularly difficult to recruit to.

Mr Bowdler, the area medical director, did not explain why that was the case.

Cllr Gwenfair Jones, a former nurse who sits on the scrutiny committee for Plaid Cymru, said: 
"I think we're all aware of the shortage of GPs in general and specifically in Wrexham. It's something Plaid Cymru raised the alarm over four years ago. Since then, the situation has got even worse. GPs know it, we know it and anyone who tries to access their GP knows it. Yet we see a health board and Welsh Government failing to act upon the available evidence. We need to train and recruit more doctors here in north Wales and specifically for Wrexham or we will face an even greater crisis in the coming years. 
"I asked for the latest information about the medical school planned for north Wales, something Plaid Cymru pushed hard for over the years and was finally conceded by Labour, but there were no clear answers. We need to see progress because people are not able to access GPs and we have even worse problems when it comes to out-of-hours cover."
Cllr Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru (Queensway) added: 
"Plaid Cymru's long-standing policy is to train and recruit 1,000 extra doctors as well as 5,000 extra nurses to bridge the shortfall we face in our community settings as well as district general hospitals. The Maelor alone has more than 100 nurse vacancies and the age profile of both our nurses and doctors means we need to start training now just to replace those retiring in the coming years.
"On top of that, Wrexham Council and the Welsh Government seem intent on making a bad situation worse. The Local Development Plan intends to allocate land for thousands of additional homes to accommodate thousands of extra people. The health board estimates that this will need an additional 10 GPs and yet here we have the health board admitting the recruitment crisis in Wrexham is already amongst the worst in the UK. When will we see some concrete action from the Welsh Government to address this crisis? We are sleepwalking towards a disaster here."

Labour votes against Autism Bill - it's a disgrace



The failure of Labour to back an autism Bill for Wales has been condemned by campaigners and Plaid Cymru.

Labour, the Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams and one independent AM opposed the Bill in the Senedd, meaning it failed to be passed by 28-24.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM, said:
"Plaid Cymru supported this bill, which was part of our manifesto commitment in 2016. Had we be in power, this would now be law and it's a disgrace that Labour saw fit to vote down this important piece of legislation. 
“People with autism and their families have been let down by the Labour party in Wales and their cynical voting against the Autism Bill. The Liberal Democrat member and the Independent AM were both elected on manifestos to introduce legislation on autism and their rejection of the Bill is equally disappointing. 
“The distressing evidence we received from people with autism and their families of the challenges they face to get some kind of diagnosis, of identifying support where support is needed, where it exists at all, of getting access to their support shows how desperately legislation is needed. There's a shocking lack of consistency nationally and, where services are good, they are too often dependent on skilled and caring individuals in certain professions. 
“Families are profoundly disappointed that the Welsh Government and the Labour party have not listened to and acted on their concerns. This is not the end of the matter as far as Plaid Cymru is concerned and we will be scrutinising the government rigorously to ensure that their promises are kept. 
“A Plaid Cymru government would introduce legislation that protects and promotes the rights of autistic people in Wales, their families and carers."

Among those voting against the bill were local Labour AMs Ken Skates and Lesley Griffiths.


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Wrexham's population is falling - let's rethink our housing plans

Rejecting plans for 130 new homes on greenfield sites in Rossett should be the start of a re-think on our plans to develop Wrexham over the coming decade.

The decision taken by the planning committee on Monday was against officers' recommendation, which argued that the emerging Local Development Plan could be used to allow this scheme to go ahead. This is despite the fact that the Plan is still in draft form and has not been examined in public.

Councillor Marc Jones (Plaid, Grosvenor) argued that the application should be rejected on the grounds of safety, as there were inadequate pathways for walkers, as well as being contrary to the existing Unitary Development Plan.

He argued that the developers wanted the best of both worlds:
"While they are using the emerging LDP as a way to allow this greenfield site development to take place, they are not willing to accept the quota of affordable housing that same plan requires. Instead they are trying to get away with providing 25% in an area desperate for affordable housing."
Cllr Jones added:
"Development on greenfield sites should not be taking place unless there are exceptional circumstances. The LDP threatens a free-for-all from housing developers who are jumping the gun and it's important that councillors reject those pressures."
Cllr Jones said the Plaid Cymru group of councillors would be making representations to the Planning Inspectorate examining the LDP about the falling population in Wrexham and questioning the need for the rapid expansion in housing envisaged in the LDP.

He said:
"In 2013, Wrexham's population was 135,801. In 2017, the latest mid-year estimate that we have, it was down slightly to 135,571. There is no population boom happening in Wrexham and, if anything, EU nationals are departing and our population could continue to shrink or stabilise.  
"Of course new homes are needed as family units become smaller but the LDP was based on Welsh Government projections that the borough's population will rise significantly over the coming decades - initially it was 20% and subsequently downgraded to 10%. It's now clear that even that downgrading overstates the case."
Here is the Welsh Government's own mid-year estimates for population in the borough over the past five years:
2013 135,801
2014 135,953
2015 135,418
2016 135,408
2013 135,571
He concluded: "Our focus needs to be on providing affordable homes for the many people on our waiting lists. The council is, at long last, starting to build a small number of council houses to meet that need and we will be pushing for other pieces of council-owned land to be used productively like this."

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Private finance challenge for new Labour leader


Plaid AM calls for review of Wrexham waste contract


Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM has challenged Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford to review the cost of a Private Finance Initiative waste scheme in Wrexham with a view to buying out the contract.

Llyr Gruffydd said: 
“The waste contract between Wrexham Council and a private firm called FCC isn’t due to expire until 2038. The council already pays more than £15 million a year for the contract and this is increasing year on year at a time when the council’s funds are under pressure.

 “Mark Drakeford, in his manifesto to become the Labour leader, pledged to ‘review existing PFI contracts across theWelsh public sector, to buy out those contracts where that provides a betteroutcome for the public purse’. 
“One of the key PFI contracts in Wales is the Wrexham waste scheme. It will cost at least £419 million over its lifetime, a sum that has risen significantly over the years. Wrexham’s 2017-8 statement of accounts revealed an additional £900,000 cost to the council because the market in recyclates had slumped. It’s clear that the company gets the benefit of a long-term contract worth hundreds of millions of pounds with none of the risk.

“With this in mind, I’m asking the First Minister to look at this contract with some urgency. The Welsh Government supported the initial contract with £40 million of funding. If it can reduce the council’s outgoings at a time when frontline services are being cut each year, then it would be a clear benefit to residents in Wrexham."
PFI schemes, where private companies provided public services, were widely promoted by both Labour and Tory governments in the 1980s and 1990s before being discredited due to the huge long-term costs for councils and the NHS.