Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Frack-free pensions?

Plaid Cymru councillor Carrie Harper has challenged Welsh councils' investment in fracking firms through their pension schemes.

Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham councils operate a £1.8 billion pension scheme through the Clwyd Pension Fund. After it was revealed that this was one of eight Welsh council pension funds investing in fracking firms, she wrote to the Fund's chief executive Colin Everett.




Here is that exchange:

From: Chief Executive <chief.executive@flintshire.gov.uk>
Dear Councillor Harper.

Thank you for your enquiry about the Pension Fund and our ethical investments.
We discussed this briefly at the Pensions Committee meeting last week, at which Wrexham CBC was represented, following the BBC coverage to which we contributed with a reply to a press enquiry.
By way of explanation the Fund makes investments, for a return, in a broad range of international companies through an approved investment plan and strategy. Some of these companies are active in energy and fuel production. Whilst some of these companies might be involved in ‘fracking’ they have a wide range of business activities and energy productions and not fracking alone. We do not knowingly or purposefully invest in fracking activity specifically.
The Fund meets ethical codes and guidelines for its investment plan and strategy. If you look up the Pension Fund Committee agenda and minutes from last week (5 September) on the Flintshire County Council website you will see the ethical compliance referenced in the Fund Annual Report.
We appreciate that fracking is a contemporary and a divisive issue. Welsh Government is currently reviewing its policy and legislative position as I am sure that you are aware. Should the Government take a final position which might influence the future investment choices of the eight Funds in Wales then we will of course review our strategy and the decisions our investment managers and agents make on our behalf. The Funds in Wales are not acting improperly or indeed unlawfully, as the one interview in the media coverage might have suggested. The Funds have not been called upon, until now, to review their position noting that we are fully complaint with the ethical codes and guidances.
I am sure that this will be a running issue and that there will be fuller debate over time.
I hope that this reply is helpful and reassuring.
Kind regards.
Colin Everett

========================

Hello Colin,

Many thanks for your quick reply and for pointing me to the annual report, much appreciated. I’ve copied in Nigel Williams as our representative in Wrecsam and also Ian Bancroft as our new Chief Executive.

I understand that mitigating the risk of climate change has to be incorporated into the investment strategy as a requirement under the Well-Being of Future Generations Act, can you tell me if you’ve taken any formal advice on this please? I can see reference to compliance with general codes but there is no reference to this that I could find. It would be helpful to understand how this has been considered.

I’m also unclear as to the exact amount invested in fracking firms (either directly or indirectly), could you provide any clarity on that please?

As I’m sure you’re aware there has been a moratorium in place in Wales since 2015 to prevent fracking here, the Welsh Government are proposing an effective ban on fracking, with the relevant powers being devolved in October. It is therefore a completely unethical position for Welsh councils to then profit from firms who will be fracking in other countries.

Given the last ‘light touch’ review of the Clwyd Fund strategy happened back in 2016, would it not be timely to review the strategy now given the obvious direction of travel here in Wales? I did read that Gwynedd’s Pensions Committee are at least revising their strategy to include more responsible investment principles.

Should we not be investing in a greener future for our residents, rather than investing our resources into an industry we’re opposing in Wales?

Many thanks

Cllr Carrie Harper
Plaid Cymru


==============

Thanks for the response Carrie.
Our response to BBC Wales was as follows:-
“We do not invest in companies that just undertake fracking activity. We have been advised by our global equity and emerging market equity fund managers that there are some large companies within their portfolios who may have a small proportion of income from fracking. In November 2017, the investment in these companies with some income from fracking was lower, that being £7.6m or about 0.4% of a £1.8bn fund.
“The Clwyd Pension Fund publishes an investment strategy statement which includes its policy on responsible investment and this is available on the Clwyd Pension Fund website.”
There has been no recent debate in Wales over a policy position for LGPS Funds that I am aware of – but I stand to be corrected. This will clearly be an area for policy debate over the coming months.
Kind regards.
Colin

You messed up on dog fouling



Council challenged on Kingdom contract

Wrexham Council has been accused of messing up on dog fouling after new figures showed how effective its in-house team was before it was disbanded.

Today's Homes and Environment scrutiny committee will hear recommendations that Wrexham Council ends its two-year contract with controversial litter firm Kingdom.


The recommendation, by a Task and Finish group, is to serve a 90-day notice that the contract should be terminated. If accepted by the scrutiny committee, this would mean a final decision would need to be made by the Executive Board.

The recommendation comes as Plaid Cymru councillors reveal figures showing that the council's dog fouling enforcement team was performing well until its forced merger with the Traffic Enforcement team in 2011-2.

Statistics show that Public Protection enforcement officers were issuing 100 or more tickets a year EACH in the run up to the amalgamation, mainly for dog fouling, and Wrexham was among the best performing councils in Wales.

The decision to merge the teams led to a steep decline in dog fouling tickets as the team was effectively disbanded and had to deal with traffic issues.

Councillor Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru's group leader, said:

"The justification for the Kingdom contract was that the council's in-house team was underperforming. It's clear from information we've been given that the council's dog enforcement team was among the best in Wales until it was merged.
"The failure to ensure an effective dog enforcement team in-house is entirely due to this merger and that is a decision taken by the lead member and senior officers. This opened the door for Kingdom, which has also failed to deal with the serious problem of dog fouling and concentrated instead on cigarette ends.
"From newspaper reports at the time, it's clear the council's in-house team were using intelligence received to target persistent fouling, often doing surveillance early in the morning to catch persistent perpetrators. This is time consuming and difficult (i.e. confronting people with dogs) but was done. Kingdom haven't done that.
"That botched amalgamation has since been used to justify getting Kingdom involved. An easier solution would be to return to a system that was tried and tested. We need to get rid of Kingdom as soon as possible."



Cllr Jones also challenged the council to reveal the number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued by Kingdom in August, saying the numbers issued in July showed a dramatic decline due to Kingdom's failure to recruit enough staff:

"Our understanding is that Kingdom hasn't issued a single ticket in August because it has not had staff on the streets. If that's the case, then Wrexham Council doesn't have any enforcement team to deal with dog fouling or litter."









Monday, 10 September 2018

Why Kingdom must go - it's misled Wrexham Council


Councils such as Wrexham have adopted a "Zero Tolerance" approach to littering offences described in the Environmental Protection Act 1990, section 87. Crucially they have based that on the following statement from Kingdom Security:

“Crucially, section 87 of the EPA states that it is a criminal offence for a person to drop, throw down, leave or deposit litter in a public place.”

Whereas the actual legislation states:
“A person is guilty of an offence if he throws down, drops or otherwise deposits any litter in any place to which this section applies and leaves it.”

The difference in these two statements is glaringly obvious - the misplacement of the term ‘and leaves it’ in Kingdom’s statement above completely removes the statutory intent of the legislation, ie to commit the offence you must leave said litter and refuse to pick up when asked.  
The EPA s87 expressly requires the defendant to leave the litter in order to complete the offence. The actus reus, to use legal jargon, is a throwing down (etc) AND leaving. In Defra’s current guidance “Local environmental enforcement – Guidance on the use of fixed penalty notices”, issued in 2007, it is stated that “a fixed penalty notice should only be issued where there is evidence of intent; this is to say that someone clearly meant to drop the litter in the first place”.
So in Defra’s opinion, mens rea (another legal term meaning to have a guilty mind) is required. In Kingdom’s statement however, the actus reus is dropping, throwing down, leaving or depositing and leads to an incorrect interpretation that littering is a strict liability offence, and hence Zero Tolerance is applicable.
However, if it was a strict liability offence, even accidental dropping of something would have to be included and, again, Defra states in both its current guidance and revised draft statutory guidance, that “a FPN should not be issued …  if the litter offence is accidental – for example if something falls from someone’s pocket.”.  This is further proof that the statutory intent of the legislation is to prosecute someone who has littered with intent and is therefore not a strict liability offence.  

The concept of Zero Tolerance cannot therefore be applied to this legislation. If the words “…. and leave it” and the corresponding Government Issued Guidance did not categorically state examples of when FPNs should not be issued, then it could be argued to the contrary, due to both the wording of the act indicating strict liability and the offence carrying a small penalty (Gammon (Hong Kong) Ltd v Attorney-General of Hong Kong [1985] AC 1) but this is not the case.  The legislation and supporting guidance clearly indicate that proof of mens rea is required.
It is argued that the subtle rewriting of a piece of statutory legislation on (arguably the market leader) Kingdom’s website has been taken as gospel by local authorities throughout the UK.
The concept of Zero Tolerance has been incorrectly applied to littering offences based on this rewritten legislation, which is contrary to the statutory intent of the legislation and its supporting government guidance and has further been used as an alleged means of raising money from innocent members of the public.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Zero tolerance for Kingdom in Wrexham - protest on Saturday 8th September


The last council in north Wales to use controversial litter enforcement firm Kingdom should have "zero tolerance" of its failure to stick to the contract.

That's the view of Plaid Cymru in Wrexham, who have repeatedly called for Wrexham Council to end its two-year contract with the Merseyside-based company.

Councillor Marc Jones, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said:
"We have been told that Kingdom has a 'zero tolerance' approach to any littering. It's time this council took a zero-tolerance approach to a company that has broken its contract with the authority and has failed to ensure that our streets are any cleaner.
"This is why Wrexham Against Kingdom has organised a peaceful protest against the policy to take place at Queens Square in Wrexham town centre this Saturday at mid-day. We're calling on everybody who wants to see the back of this firm, which has not dealt with serious problems of dog fouling and flytipping, to join the protest. Everybody in Wrexham should want to replace it with a strategy that will see cleaner streets and a new approach to litter enforcement."

The council's Executive Board refused to debate a motion by Plaid Cymru in July arguing for the ending of the contract, which is due to run until May 2019. Plaid Cymru councillors have argued that the council could either issue a 90-day notice without reason or a 28-day termination notice due to the breach of contract.

Cllr Jones added:
"Either way, it's time the Executive Board listened to the thousands of people who have been criminalised by this ineffective policing strategy. The policy has alienated a great many people, is opposed by many town-centre businesses and many councillors feel that it has done nothing to improve their communities. The only people who have benefitted from this are the shareholders of Kingdom, who have cashed in on Wrexham even after every other council in the North turned against them."

The protest by Wrexham Against Kingdom will be led by the Cambria Band.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Sprouts nursery - what went wrong?


A controversial nursery run by Wrexham Council with funding of at least £245,000 closed its doors after just two years.

Sprouts nursery was set up on Rhosddu Road, Wrexham, with £155,000 funding from the Welsh Government under the Viable and Vibrant Places funding scheme for the borough in 2013. The council also paid £90,000 into the project.

Alarm bells were soon ringing because it made promises about additional nursery care that it didn't meet and effectively used public money to undermine existing successful nurseries in the area. In September 2017, the council closed the nursery with significant losses.

It's now more than 14 months since Councillor Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru's councillor for Grosvenor ward, asked that the whole episode be scrutinised by the council. On Wednesday, the Employment Business and Investment Scrutiny Committee will discuss the matter at the Guildhall.

A report into the failure concedes that "lessons need to be learnt" but Cllr Jones said he was concerned that problems were being swept under the carpet:

"People working in the sector and my Plaid Cymru colleague Councillor Arfon Jones raised concerns about Sprouts before it even opened. The funding was used in a way to undermine existing businesses and that can't be right. 
"When I was elected in May 2017 I also raised my concerns with senior officers and it's taken this long to get some public scrutiny. The report admits several failings but doesn't, in my view, explain why they happened and how it couldn't happen again in the future.
"If the council's Executive Board doesn't accept and learn from these kinds of failures, then it is going to keep making the same mistakes in the future." 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Welsh Government must stump up for teachers’ pay rise


Llyr Gruffydd AM
Education Secretary refuses to commit on pay rise funding

Concern has been raised that pay rises for Welsh teachers, due in September, will be left unfunded by the Welsh Government after the Education Secretary refused to commit to provide funding.

A pay rise for teachers in both Wales and England of between 1.5% and 3.5% was announced by the Westminster Government last month. Decisions on teachers’ pay and conditions remain reserved to Westminster politicians, with responsibility due to be transferred to Wales in September.

The Westminster Education Secretary claimed, when making the announcement, that increases will be funded for English teachers from the Department of Education, but no announcement has been made on funding for teachers in Wales.

Following the announcement, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Education Secretary, Llyr Gruffydd AM wrote to the Welsh Government’s Education Secretary, calling for clarity on whether it will provide Local Authorities with additional funding to cover the cost of the pay rises for Welsh teachers. A response from the Education Secretary failed to give that commitment.

Commenting, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Education Secretary, Llyr Gruffydd AM, said:

“The announcement of a pay rise last month was well overdue. “As the pay rise in England will be funded from the existing English education budget, it is up to the Welsh Government to fund the pay rise for Welsh teachers. It is deeply concerning that the Education Secretary is unwilling to commit to doing so, in the absence of funding being provided by the Westminster Government. “Plaid Cymru fought long and hard to ensure the cap on NHS pay was lifted in Wales and thankfully, the Welsh Government eventually agreed to lift the cap after finding itself in the shameful position of being the last country in the UK to do so. Surely they cannot now put up the same resistance to funding a pay-rise for our hard-working teachers. If a Tory Government in Westminster can provide funding for teachers in England, then surely the Welsh Government can do so in Wales. “Our teachers deserve to be paid a decent wage and the Welsh Government has to stump up to make sure this pay-rise is fairly funded. The worrying alternative to not doing so is that hard-pressed schools would have to find the additional funding and that would inevitably mean staff redundancies.”


Saturday, 25 August 2018

Parking in country parks - costs don't add up

The cost of installing pay and display machines and signage at Wrexham's three country parks - Alyn Waters, Ty Mawr and Nant Mill - will be equal to the estimated income in the first year.

The cost of installation has been given in a Freedom of Information response by Wrexham Council.

Please provide full details of the costs of installing Pay & Display
Machines(including site preparation and ancillary works) installed at all
Country Parks/facilities in the Borough?
Please provide this in list form with costs identified for individual
sites including Alyn Waters, Ty Mawr, Nant Mill etc
 
Response:
Pay and Display Machines £15,990.00
Protective Cages £ 3,839.85
Installation £10,055.11
Signs £ 7,404.00
Total £37,288.96
Please note: costs for machine/cage and signs can be divided 3 ways to
give a cost per site of £9,077.95, but for the installation there the
figure of £10,055.11 covers the three sites.
The Council's Tory and two Independent groups voted for the measure in the Budget vote earlier this year. Plaid Cymru, Labour and genuine independent councillors voted against the move.

Councillor Marc Jones, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said: 
"The estimated income is £47,000 a year but it's clear that the inital set-up costs will eat up the bulk of that in the first year. The ongoing costs of maintenance, collection and policing the country parks will also add to the council's costs.
"It's quite likely that this will actually cost the council money in the first year with the added problem of people staying away from country parks or opting to park outside the parks adding to the loss of anticipated income.
"Once again, we have the ruling coalition of Tories and Independents making poor decisions to generate income that do not, in fact, do what was intended." 

Friday, 24 August 2018

EasyCoach withdraws bus services






EasyCoach services that were started just last June in the Wrexham area are being withdrawn by the company.

The company's decision comes after concerns were raised by Plaid Cymru councillor Marc Jones in July about the company's safety and reliability:

From: Marc1 Jones
Sent: 21 July 2018 09:01
To: Darren Williams Cc: Davida Bithell
Subject: Easybus
Dear Darren
Further to the report you sent out regarding Easybus recently, I've been informed of a number of concerns re the maintenance and safety record of Easybus.
We've had a report from someone who witnessed a wheel coming off an Easybus vehicle whilst it was travelling on the bypass last Wednesday, at the Johnstown turn off.
There have also been a number of issues with the school route from Llanarmon / Glyn Ceiriog to Dinas Bran. We understand the buses have broken down 7 times in just 2 weeks and are led to believe this has meant pupils missing GCSE exams.
With this in mind, I'd be grateful if you could confirm whether the council was aware of these incidents, what is being done to ensure passenger safety and what alternative provision is in place if Easybus is not able to meet the necessary health and safety standards required.
 
Yours 
Marc
Today's news confirms confidential reports about the problems facing the company, which also runs the council's Information Centre at Wrexham Bus Station.

Cllr Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru's group leader on Wrexham Council, said:
"This is another blow for public transport in Wrexham. Bus services remain patchy at best and that's because funding for bus services has been frozen by this Welsh Government for many years while fuel and wages have increased.

"I flagged up concerns about this company's safety record back in July after reports that a wheel had come off one EasyCoach while it was on the A483. The Ceiriog Valley route was also subject to frequent breakdowns in recent months.

"If we're serious about reducing congestion in our area, we need better public transport that's reliable, affordable and easily accessible. That needs a long-term investment and strategy that's just not happening in this area.
 "We hear of money being invested in a combined train-bus hub for Wrexham, but the reality is that there won't be any buses left to service that hub unless we have serious investment in revenue costs rather than one-off capital costs to maintain and improve services. 
"Bus de-regulation has happened throughout the UK with the exception of London, where more than half the population travel to work every day by public transport under democratic control. That's clearly a system that works. I don't think it's too much to ask that Wales has the same kind of ownership of public transport so that it serves people better than this current privatised, under-subsidised hell."

Cllr Jones added that he did not believe the announcement affected the running of the council's Information Centre in the bus station.









Monday, 20 August 2018

Reality bites with Citizens' Advice cuts



The reality of cuts in Wrexham Council's funding to the local Citizens' Advice service is now starting to bite. From September, it will stop its Monday morning service in Chirk as well as close for three days a week in Grosvenor Road, Wrexham.

Cllr Marc Jones, the Plaid Cymru councillor who represents the Grosvenor ward where Citizens' Advice is located, said:
"Plaid Cymru councillors have consistently called for funding to be reinstated for Citizens' Advice. We're talking about an extra £25,000 to maintain the service, which is needed more than ever due to people needing advice on housing, benefits and work issues. Cutting down the service will put added pressures on hard-pressed council staff and it's a false economy when you consider the service brought an extra £200,000 into the borough last year. 
"Wrexham Council faces financial challenges but this cut was petty and badly considered. The unexpected savings from not employing a permanent chief executive for the past nine months amount to about £100,000. Why not use that windfall to fund Citizens' Advice?"
This is the update from the Citizens' Advice Service: 

The trustees, staff and volunteers at Citizens Advice Wrexham are pleased that Wrexham County Borough Council agreed to provide some support to enable some open door advice services to continue for the remainder of this year. We requested £50,000 but actually received a grant of only £25,000 from the Council, and have therefore done our best to raise additional funds through donations from the public.   Gwyn Evans a volunteer raised over £7,000 from his campaign on ‘Just Giving’ based on his health issues, and we would take this opportunity to thank all those who have donated to this.   We have also received many donations from clients visiting our service, all of it greatly appreciated and the funds raised will be applied to enabling our charity to keep going until March 2019. However, given the decrease in our Council funding from £99,000 three years ago, to what we now have at our disposal, it is with regret that we are now obliged to provide a reduced level of open door service.  We hope to continue dialogue with the Local Authority to secure  funding for the future, to enable us to maintain a free, impartial, confidential high quality and independent service for people of Wrexham County Borough.  Our service delivery arrangements from Monday 3rd September 2018 are detailed below:  
Chirk Outreach Service:  This service has been held in Chirk Library on Monday mornings for over 29 years and regrettably now will close. The last session there will be held on the 10th September, 2018. 
Our main office service will be:  (from the beginning of  September 2018) 
Wednesdays and Fridays open door generalist drop in advice service - 9.30 am to 2.30 pm. Our Telephone Adviceline Service number is 0300 330 1178 Or the public can ring the National Advice Line: 03444 77 20 20The Advicelines are open every day Access for specialist appointments can be made through our Adviceline phone number or via a visit to the open door sessions.  If our office is not open (Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays except for designated appointments, we can only advise potential clients to visit Contact Wrexham Building (Local Authority office) or Job Centre Plus 19 Grosvenor Road  
The dedicated directors, staff and 23 fully trained volunteer advisers who trained in their own time to qualify, acknowledge the devastating impact of this necessary action, particularly at a time when are services are needed more, not less, by the communities we serve. 

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Kingdom breaking Wrexham contract - they must go


Plaid councillors call for controversial firm to be axed

Plaid Cymru councillors have called for the immediate scrapping of Wrexham Council's contract with Kingdom as the firm is in breach of the conditions.

The controversial company has a two-year contract with the council for litter enforcement, which has seen thousands of people issued with Fixed Penalty Notices of £75 for dropping cigarette butts or paper.

The company recently pulled out of similar contracts with Denbighshire, Conwy and Flintshire Councils after it lost contracts with Ynys Môn and Gwynedd Councils - leaving Wrexham as the only council in north Wales to continue to employ the firm.

The controversy surrounding the contract has meant that the council has established a Task and Finish Group to review the situation and it is expected to report back in the autumn.


Cllr Marc Jones, who last month moved a motion rejected by the Executive Board that the contract with Kingdom should be terminated, said action was needed to prevent more people being wrongfully punished and also to make sure the council protected itself from financial risk:

"There is a real risk that Kingdom's activities could face legal challenge. If that happens, then it will be the council and not Kingdom that could become liable for any repayments. To protect the council from further financial exposure, Plaid Cymru councillors are calling for the contract to be scrapped at the earliest opportunity.

"Today we have had confirmation from a council officer that Kingdom is not meeting the terms of the contract, which stipulates that it has between two and four operatives working in the borough. They company says that, due to 'recruitment issues' and 'staff leaving', there is just one operative left. As that is breaking the contract the company has with Wrexham Council, the contract should be terminated with the 28-day notice period."

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Why is transport in Wales so poor?

'There is no point looking to the British Government to invest in Wales'




The table above provides the simple answer - transport funding is being focussed on London and the south-east of England.

London gets more than double the transport funding per person than Wales does - £8,000 compares to £3,000.

The figures, based on statistics issued by the Office of National Statistics, show that if capital spending per head on transport in Wales matched spending per head in the wider south east of England, an extra £5.6 billion would have been invested since 1999.

Jonathan Edwards MP, the Plaid Cymru Westminster Group spokesperson for the Treasury said:

“The historic pooling of transport infrastructure expenditure in London is ‘scandalous’. This is a classic case of underfunding by the London-centric British Government and a chronic case of negligence by a dormant Labour Welsh Government since they took the reins twenty years ago. Had capital spending per head on transport in Wales matched spending per head in the wider south east of England, an extra £5.6 billion would have been invested since 1999. Transport infrastructure in Wales has been short-changed to the tune of billions.

“At the moment the taxes of Welsh people are flowing to London and we are being offered crumbs back. When Tory and Labour politicians talk about pooling and sharing what they must mean is that Wales and other parts of the British State do the sharing and London does the pooling.
“To put £5.6 billion into context, the whole of the Welsh transport project pipeline, which includes the recently cancelled electrification of the Great Western Mainline, the South Wales Metro, the third Menai crossing, the Caernarfon-Bontnewydd bypass and tens of other vital pan-Wales projects, is worth £7.3 billion.
“These figures should be of huge concern as Brexit will mean an end to structural funds from the EU. The British State is grossly unequal and the concentration of transport infrastructure investment in London and the South East of England is one reason for this. The British State model is bust and there is little point looking to the Westminster parties for salvation.
“Imagine what we could have done since devolution to improve transport infrastructure in Wales with £5.6 billion. The Westminster parties will always look after London. Labour and the Tories are both as bad as each other. There is no point looking to the British Government to invest in Wales, we need to have the full portfolio of job creation leavers in Wales to enable is to do the job ourselves.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Angen ehangu cronfa £30 miliwn ar gyfer ysgolion Cymraeg i ateb galw - Plaid

Pob cyngor yn ceisio am arian i ehangu addysg Gymraeg
Dyw’r arian ar gyfer ehangu addysg Gymraeg ddim yn ddigon i ateb y galw, yn ôl ffigyrau swyddogol mae Plaid Cymru wedi gweld.

Yn sgil cytundeb rhwng Plaid Cymru a Llywodraeth Cymru, cafwyd £30 miliwn o arian cyfalaf er mwyn helpu cwrdd â’r galw cynnyddol am addysg Gymraeg.

Mae ystadegau â rhyddhawyd gan Llywodraeth Cymru i ysgrifennydd cysgodol addysg Plaid Cymru Llyr Gruffydd yn dangos fod cynghorau wedi gwneud cais am dair gwaith yr arian oedd ar gael i adeiladu neu ehangu ysgolion Cymraeg.

Mae’r 22 cyngor wedi gofyn am gyfanswm o £103m – yn amrywio o £640,000 gan Ynys Môn i £14,000,000 gan Gastellnedd Porth Talbot.

LA
LA Total (£million)
LA
LA Total  (£million)
Anglesey
0.64
Merthyr Tydfil
1.83
Blaenau Gwent
7.00
Monmouthshire
1.89
Bridgend
2.60
Neath Port Talbot
14.03
Caerphilly
6.13
Newport
13.70
Cardiff
7.40
Pembrokeshire
5.95
Carmarthen
4.09
Powys
5.18
Ceredigion
7.72
Rhondda Cynon Taf
3.57
Conwy
1.29
Swansea
4.86
Denbighshire
2.12
Torfaen
6.10
Flintshire
3.05
Vale of Glamorgan
1.55
Gwynedd
1.11
Wrexham
1.30
Total bid cost: 103.11

Dywedodd Mr Gruffydd: 
Mae’r ffaith fod pob cyngor wedi gwneud cais yn adrodd cyfrolau – mae yna alw sydd angen ei ateb drwy Gymru gyfan. Dyma pam y gwnaethon ni fel plaid wthio am yr arian ychwanegol yn y gyllideb eleni. Rydan ni’n cydnabod fod hwn yn sector sy’n cynnyddu a bod angen arian cyfalaf o ran ysgolion newydd ac er mwyn adnewyddu ac ehangu adeiladau.

“Mae’n amlwg o’r nifer fawr o geisiadau fod angen diwallu’r galw yma a bod angen cynnal y buddsoddiad ychwanegol yma yn y sector Gymraeg. Bydd rhai cynghorau’n cael eu siomi pan fydd y cyhoeddiad terfynol yn cael ei wneud yn yr Hydref a byddaf yn pwyso ar yr ysgrifennydd cabinet i gynnal y lefel yma o fuddsoddiad cyfalaf.

“Os yw Llywodraeth Cymru o ddifrif am gyrraedd y targed o filiwn o siaradwyr Cymraeg erbyn 2050 yna mae ateb y galw ymhlith rhieni am addysg Gymraeg yn hanfodol.”



Rhyfedd o fyd...




Monday, 23 July 2018

BREAKING NEWS: KINGDOM PULLS OUT OF CONWY, FLINTSHIRE AND DENBIGHSHIRE

We have just had confirmation that Kingdom has given notice to Conwy, Flintshire and Denbighshire Councils that it's pulling out of its contracts with the various local authorities in August.  
Ynys Môn and Gwynedd Councils, both Plaid Cymru run, binned Kingdom earlier this year.

That leaves just Wrexham Council of the six councils in north Wales who were using Kingdom earlier this year still stubbornly holding on to this failed method of keeping our streets clean.
Plaid Cymru councillors in Wrexham have attempted to have the Kingdom contract terminated but this was rejected by the Tory-Independent Executive Board that controls the council.
Councillor Marc Jones said:
"It's encouraging that councils across the North are ditching Kingdom because this contract is not keeping our streets clean. It's targetting vulnerable people and benefitting Kingdom's shareholders. For the past six months we have been calling for the council to ditch Kingdom. We desperately need a different approach and now hope that the council can work with other authorities to provide a better service."
Cllr Jones said it was clear that negotiations were happening behind closed doors as Flintshire's Council leader Aaron Shotton had mentioned that informal talks had been held with Wrexham [see attached article]. 


A mass protest is being planned to show how people locally feel about Kingdom. Details to be announced.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Secret council meeting rejects Plaid motion to scrap Kingdom contract

Wrexham Council's Executive Board met yesterday and the agenda included a proposal by Councillors Marc Jones and Carrie Harper from Plaid Cymru to suspend the contract with Kingdom Security.

Kingdom is responsible for enforcing littering and has issued more than 9,000 Fixed Penalty Notices in the two years it's been operating in Wrexham.

The Executive Board decided at the last minute to hear the matter behing closed doors and has now published a one-line summary of what was decided: The motion be not adopted.

The Executive Board will have to explain for itself why it made its decision and why the need for secrecy. People will come to their own conclusions and I hope we can explain in full how this council operates very soon.

More importantly, I hope we can change the way this council operates very soon.



THIS IS AN EXTENDED VERSION OF THE ARGUMENT PUT TO THE EXECUTIVE BOARD

As councillors we want to see cleaner streets and our residents are also fed up with rubbish being flytipped and dog mess fouling our communities. That's why Kingdom was initially brought in but the evidence is clear - Kingdom does not focus on dog fouling and flytipping but instead concentrates on cigarette-related littering. This makes up 92% of all the FPNs issued. And yet, according to official stats, the number of cigarettes sold in Wales dropped by an estimated 20% (Office of National Statistics) in the past two years as vaping becomes more popular.

Wxm Council issued 6,400 FPNs in 2016-7. That's more tickets than any other council in Wales. That's eight times more than Cardiff, a city three times our population. Yet, after more than two years of Kingdom, we believe the streets of Wrexham county borough are no cleaner. Our hard-pressed Streetscene workers are seeing no benefit, cllrs are seeing no benefit, businesses large and small are seeing no benefit. Only Kingdom shareholders are seeing the benefit.

Zero Tolerance Policy and the law

The council is putting itself at significant risk as the concept of zero tolerance for litter enforcement is not mentioned at all in statute. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the offence of littering is only complete under the ‘..... and leave it” clause. Defra and the Welsh Government make it clear in the guidance underpinning this legislation that accidental littering should not automatically lead to a FPN, and that a person should be given the opportunity to pick the litter up first. Under a zero tolerance regime, this is not happening, and I would therefore question the legality of all FPNs issued under it.

Previously we've been told guidelines are not law.
But the case of Ali v Newham Borough Council (2012) contradicts that assertion.

This High Court ruling clearly established that a local authority has no lawful justification for departing from government guidelines. Put simply, the guidelines issued must be followed, and an offence is only committed if the litter is left. By adopting the Zero Tolerance approach for litter enforcement, something Kingdom is naturally keen to see happen, the council is at risk of significant legal action being taken to rescind and repay all illegally issued FPNs. This in turn puts WCBC residents at risk, since any financial penalties will clearly be passed on to the taxpayers.

The Council is required by the Regulators’ Code to publish their Enforcement Policy explaining how they respond to non-compliance. It is recognised as an important document for regulators in meeting their responsibility under the statutory principles of good regulation, set out in Section 21 of The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, to be accountable and transparent about their activities. In particular:

The principles of the Regulators Code apply to enforcement action carried out by local authorities. An effective environmental offences enforcement regime is one that is proportionate, consistent, targeted, transparent and accountable.
The current draft statutory guidance places strong emphasis on a proportionate hierarchical approach to litter enforcement, focussing on education, awareness and warnings as opposed to a blanket Zero Tolerance approach, whereby even accidental littering is penalised.

But Zero Tolerance is not actually council policy.

From the council's own website:
"Dog Fouling and littering impact on all members of the community therefore all should comply with the law. However consideration is given to an individual who may have difficulty picking up dog foul or who is visually impaired”.
In addition, there is some tolerance shown in not prosecuting people under 18 and for people who are described as vulnerable. So there is no policy of zero tolerance.

Defra states in the consultation document ‘Modification to the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse: Guidance on Effective Enforcement’:
“When exercising their enforcement powers, councils are acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, and we are clear that these powers must be exercised in such a way as to uphold public confidence in a fair judicial system. Fixed penalty notices should therefore only be issued when it is proportionate and in the public interest to do so. Disproportionate enforcement activity undermines legitimate messages against littering and other environmental offences. Our policy is clear that under no circumstances should councils view the use of fixed penalty notices or civil penalty notices as a means to generate income. Where councils choose to use a third-party enforcement service, they should use an approach which is not based on the number of fines issued or revenue raised as this practice undermines public confidence in and support for a fair judicial system.”
The Government therefore makes it clear that a target approach is not in support of the fair judicial system in the UK.

Zero tolerance is fundamental to the Kingdom contract. 

Without a zero-tolerance approach, Kingdom cannot give people who drop litter accidentally or fail to pick up litter their Fixed Penalty Notices. It is a fundamental part of the company's model because, if their street operatives were to give people the chance to pick up their litter, they would not make any money.

The term 'zero tolerance' is not mentioned in Council Minutes. It's also not referred to in the governing legislation, the Welsh Government guidance or the Council's own Environmental Enforcement Policy, which has a structured approach that obliges the enforcement officer to try and achieve compliance in the first instance. This is followed by a 'hierarchy' of enforcement which begins with a verbal warning before formal enforcement procedures are considered. The implications of this are twofold:

(a) that the Council has not authorised a policy of ‘zero tolerance’  
(b) That Kingdom have failed, either wilfully or mistakenly, to adopt and apply the staged approach to litter enforcement, so that almost all steps prior to court proceedings have been ignored, with the result that many thousands of Wrexham citizens have been incorrectly or unnecessarily criminalised, where alternatives could have been applied.
Anyone who has been served with a fixed penalty notice for an environmental offence and feels that they have been treated unfairly are entitled to seek to have their case reviewed and reconsidered.

The council's chief legal officer has confirmed in an e-mail dated June 22, 2018 that the council has no 'zero tolerance' policy regarding Kingdom's contract and therefore the council has a problem.

As a result of the significant reputational and legal risk this council faces, the motion submitted calls on the Executive Board to suspend with immediate effect the contract with Kingdom.

We don't believe the council should delay on this matter - Kingdom's fines amount to tens of thousands of pounds a month and, if we wait until the Task and Finish group reports back in the autumn, that potentially means more than £100,000 extra fines - which could be contested and could see Wrexham Council taxpayers footing the bill. 

I don't want to take that chance. The question is: Does the Executive Board?