Monday, 29 December 2008

Labour - "Morally Corrupt"

As a son of the manse it must have really rankled Gordon Brown to have his government described as "morally corrupt," by Bishops of the Church of England. In summary and as quoted in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, they said, "...the Government now presided over a country suffering family breakdown, an unhealthy reliance on debt and a growing divide between rich and poor." This article is 'spot on' and it was very courageous of those Bishops to speak out as they did knowing full well that there will now be a massive call from within the Labour Parliamentary Group to disestablish the Church from the State for what will be seen as an act of betrayel by the Church against the Government of the day. I applaud what the Bishop's had to say and if it hurts Gordon be it...the TRUTH often does hurt.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

"Real Wrexham" by Grahame Davies

"Real Wrexham" is an unexpected gem of a book by Coedpoeth writer Grahame Davies. I had the pleasure of working with Grahame's mother at the Evening Leader many years ago but I've never met Grahame himself. After this book, I feel I know him - and Wrexham - a lot better.
In under 200 pages he teases out the unique character and heritage that make up our town - "a place where landscapes, economies and cultures converge. A place of encounter and transition. A place where one and one makes three."
It's very much a personal history of Wrexham, the town and its environs, with enough quirky facts, myth busting and anecdotes to keep the pages turning.
As a village boy, he's particularly good on the localised identities - why Coedys are different to Jackos - but also outlines the underlying identities that shape us all.
Like every 40-something football fan, he was there when Rotherham got tonked 7-1 to take Wrexham FC up to the old Division Two in 1977-78. But he also wanders away from the parochial - the poet in him can sometimes take over. It's no bad thing because he ties Welsh poet R S Thomas and Congo martyr Winifred Davies to the area as well as making the bold claim that Minera helped bring down the Roman Empire.
"Real Wrexham" should be essential reading to those who want to brand Wrexham - a border town that knows on which side of the border it's on.

Real Wrexham - Grahame Davies, Seren Books, £9.99

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Nadolig Llawen/Seasons Greetings

Ar ran y pedwar ohonom, Cynghorwyr Sir Plaid Cymru ar Gyngor Sir Wrecsam ddymuno Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i'n holl ddarllenwyr, cyfrannwyr a chefnogwyr.

On behalf of the four Plaid Cymru Councillors on Wrexham County Borough Council I would like to wish our readers, contributors and supporters a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Arfon, Marc, Carrie & Barrie.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Nuclear cover-up exposed

Paul Flynn has an interesting account of the cover-up surrounding the sale of the UK's nuclear capability to the US.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Labour falls behind in opinion poll.

A poll by the Telegraph and YouGov show that the gap between Labour and Conservatives has widened again to 7% up from 4%, with the Conservatives now on 42%, Labour on 35% and the Lib Dems on 14%. This doesn't surprise me in the least, I was more surprised when the gap narrowed and Brown got credit for 'saving' the economy...some 'saving'!! Wasn't this the guy who presided over the economy for 10 years as Chanchellor and so he must take a lot of responsibility for this deregulated unfettered financial market where financiars could bet on share prices going up or down (longs and shorts) which was partly responsible for the collapse of HBOS and the near collapse of RBS. What Gordon Brown and his right wing pals around the world has created is a global financial market based on a Las Vegas casino culture. I'm just glad that people are beginning to realise that far from being the saviour of this country from financial ruin he is in fact a very big cause of the problem... Gordon Brown is part of the problem and NOT the solution.

UK team would destroy Welsh football

Gordon Brown's sad attempts to big up his Britishness now involve wanting an UK team at the 2012 Olympics. When asked what he wanted for Christmas he said: "That we have an Olympics team for the 2012 Olympics that is a football team from Britain."

Fans from all the individual countries have all made their opposition clear. Critics fear the move could undermine Wales's status as an independent team at international level, and the Scottish and Welsh FAs have said it is "resolute" in its opposition.

It's no secret that many international football officials want to end the anomaly of four independent teams from the UK. Brown's flag waving will help them.

So it's good to note that Lesley Griffiths AM recognises these concerns and has come out unambiguously against the proposal. We might have to wait a little longer for Ian "Union Jack" Lucas to express an opinion.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Abusers and Slave Drivers.

The European Union today voted to end the UK's ability to opt out of that part of the Working Times Regulations that prohibited working beyond the 48 hours per week. Brendan Barber of the TUC said it would, "strike a blow against abusers and slave drivers." So who are the abusers and slave drivers who make their workers work such long hours? The gangmasters who exploit migrant workers or the food factories with their appalling working conditions. No we don't need to look so far from home... we have our esteemed public services, the North Wales Police and North East Wales NHS Trust where their employees work long hours often in excess of 60 hours per week. This eminently sensible decision by the European Union should be welcomed and it should send out a strong message to rogue employers that we 'work to live' and not 'live to work'!!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Solicitors struck off for cashing in on sick miners

This is enough to turn your stomach...

A solicitor who became Britain's richest lawyer was yesterday struck off after being found guilty of creaming millions of pounds from compensation paid to sick miners. Jim Beresford, 58, and his partner Douglas Smith, 52, were also ordered to pay substantial costs for serious professional misconduct over the handling of personal injury claims made under a compensation scheme for miners suffering coal dust-related diseases and other injuries.

Over five years, Mr Beresford, who was named last year as Britain's highest-earning solicitor, profited by £30.2m in the government-run compensation that is expected to pay out a total of £7bn when it is finally settled.

His firm, Beresfords in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, expanded rapidly, acting in more than 83,000 cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more than 14,500 cases of vibration white finger (VWF), a painful condition caused by working with vibrating tools. The joint earnings of Mr Beresford and Mr Smith went from more than £182,000 in 2000 to £23,273,256 in 2006.

But yesterday the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, sitting in London, ruled the lawyers' actions amounted to a breach of the solicitors' rules and found them guilty of eight out of 11 of the allegations against them. The tribunal chairman, David Leverton, said: "If ever there was a group of persons who needed the full care and attention from solicitors, it was these miners. Mr Beresford described himself as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, his attitude allowed himself and Mr Smith to put commercial goals before his clients' best interests."

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Labour - Welfare Cheats.

The following is a letter sent to the Daily Post and Evening Leader today:

Dear Editor,

I find it hard to reconcile the UK Government's committment to eradicating child poverty by 2020, and reducing the gap between rich and poor with James Purnell's announcement of welfare reform. How does reducing someone's weekly income from £89 per week (Incapacity Benefit) to £60.50 (Jobseekers Allowance) alleviate poverty? The truth of the matter is that it doesn't because moving someone onto Jobseekers Allowance when they have no hope of getting a job in a stagnant economy is just a stunt to save money.

All these reforms do is to make hundreds of Welsh families more impoverished than they already are.

It should therefore be of no surprise that these families are turning to Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales as the only party with a social conscience who continue to fight for social justice for the weak, the sick and the disadvantaged.

Yours sincerely,

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Housing crisis

Young families forced to live in upstairs flats, children living with black mould growing on the walls, young lads sleeping on floors because they can't get a flat... the need for affordable housing has never been more pressing.
Many people in Whitegate ward - and throughout the borough - are living in poor housing conditions and many more will join them if they don't keep up mortgage repayments and rents. But the choice for those in need is getting worse and worse.
In the past 20 years the numbers of council houses in Wrexham has fallen from 20,000 to just over 10,000. Housing associations were meant to make up the gap but there are just 1,500 housing association homes in Wrexham - a drop in the ocean.
Pressures on the private sector with buy-to-let landlords favouring cramming homes with students or migrant workers for extra income mean that many people are being squeezed out of housing.
It's a huge issue - the most important in terms of my ward work - and the council is taking small steps in the right direction. New two-bedroom pensioners' bungalows in Caia will free up many larger homes for families and start to unblock the logjam that exists. But we need far more radical action and a sense of urgency at all levels - council, Assembly and Westminster.
We are told that we can't build council houses but building new homes of the right quality for local need is one simple way to create jobs, meet the housing need and get some income in from rents. The council could also - if it had the funds - take on the hundreds of empty apartments built by developers during the recent housing boom.
It's a shocking indictment of free-market capitalism that we have people sleeping rough in a town with hundreds of empty homes.
Despite this evident need, the UK government is still insisting that councils can't have a level playing field with housing associations, even though the reason for that - the public sector borrowing requirement - has been shot to pieces. Billions have been spent on keeping banks afloat while ordinary families are left to fend for themselves.
Brown would be better off bailing out those in housing need and jobless builders than the merchant bankers who got us into this mess in the first place.

Plaid selects Wrexham candidate for Westminster

Tackling child poverty will be a key priority for Plaid Cymru's newly selected candidate for Wrexham in the coming Westminster election.

Arfon Jones was chosen at a meeting of the town's constituency party this week. He is one of the new councillors elected in Plaid Cymru's dramatic breakthrough in Wrexham at May's council elections and represents Gwersyllt West.

Cllr Jones, who lives in Gwersyllt, said: "Through my work as a councillor and as a volunteer with the local Citizens' Advice Bureau, I know how tough things are for families and that this is having a huge impact on child poverty in particular.

"The UK Labour government's tinkering with benefits is simply making poverty worse and my message at the next election is that children will suffer because this government is taking money off the sick and disabled.

"Wrexham people need a stronger voice in Westminster to make sure they're heard and Plaid will be challenging the sitting MP all the way. The May elections proved that Plaid is a genuine alternative to a growing number of disillusioned Labour voters and we will continue to work hard to build that alternative."

Cllr Jones served as a police officer for 30 years locally until his retirement earlier this year. He is married to a district nurse and they have two grown-up daughters.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Bean Counting.

I was very pleased to see that the Daily Post has picked up on Inspector Steve Williams's article in the Police Federation's publication 'Focus' criticising North Wales Police's 'obsession with performance and that it is hampering our relationship with the public'...hear...hear. The problem is that the Police are concentrationg on counting crimes rather than providing a quality service. To give an example, compare someone who is arrested for urinating in the street and someone arrested for a stabbing...they are both ONE VIOLENT CRIME each and that is what North Wales Police count...what a nonsense. An officer who arrests 10 people for urinating in the street gets more credit than the officer who arrests 1 person for a it then any wonder why officers go for the easy jobs and give less attention to the ones that harder to detect...that is where quality suffers and the public get disillusioned by the Police.

The Police is not the only public service which suffers because of performance, the Council is no different and Children's Social Services must be the most heavily inspected and their performance monitored more than ay other council department. To give an example Wrexham's Children's Social Services have 130 performance measurements which is the same number as they have of children being looked ridiculous is that?

The various inspection agencies in the Welsh Assembly Government have been running around 'like headless chickens' since details of the sad death of Baby P in Haringey was published sending letters out like confetti demanding this, that and the other. The problem is that the more demands the Welsh Assembly Government send out to Children's Social Services the more work it creates for front line staff and managers who then cannot deliver services to children in the County Borough.

What Inspectors in the Welsh Assembly Government are doing is 'closing the door after the horse has bolted' what is needed is more rational thinking and less 'knee jerk reactions'

Council leader 'ambushed'

It's not often that the leader of a council gets ambushed by campaigners, but that's what happened last night. The unlikely setting for this "ambush" was St Margaret's Church in Garden Village, where TCC* was holding its annual assembly.
More than 200 people heard about the ongoing campaigns TCC is involved with - the night shelter, for a Living Wage, Participatory Budgeting among others.
Cllr Aled Roberts, who leads Wrexham Council, was there to speak about the night shelter for rough sleepers but was called back on stage by the organisers after a call for a Wrexham Living Wage to be introduced for council staff. This "Wrexham Living Wage" could emulate that in Manchester, where the council has just introduced one £1.01 above the hourly UK minimum wage of £5.73.
This, more than any tinkering with VAT, is putting real money in the pockets of the lowest paid. It has the potential to lift 100,000 low-paid workers in Wales, including thousands in Wrexham.
To his credit, Aled promised to take up the matter. I'm sure TCC - and Plaid councillors - will be there too.
The National Assembly is also on the case - 31 AMs have signed up to a Living Wage commitment and work is underway (albeit at a snail's pace) to assess what a living wage would actually be for workers in Wales.
The TCC Assembly also heard about interesting developments regarding community participation in spending public money in Caia Park from Cllr Carrie Harper - more news about an intriguing pilot scheme in the New Year.

* TCC - Trefnu Cymunedol Cymru or Together Creating Communities has been campaigning on a variety of social justice issues for the past 15 years in Wrexham. Its record of success is second to none.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

'Make developer pay for Brymbo spine road' - Plaid

Anyone reading tonight's Evening Leader may have missed this story:

'Make developer pay for Brymbo spine road' - Plaid

Developers who want taxpayers' money to build a new road at Brymbo pocketed nearly £15m in dividends in just one year, research by Plaid Cymru reveals.

Brymbo Developments is asking the Welsh Assembly Government for public money to build the £2m spine road from Tanyfron to Brymbo as part of the redevelopment of the former Brymbo steelworks. But accounts filed for 2005-6 reveal that the company made £16.4m from land sales - and paid its shareholders a staggering £14.7m in dividends.

The company's failure to build the link road has been condemned by North Wales AM Janet Ryder.

Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM said: "I have every sympathy with residents in Brymbo who desperately want this road built. It is a disgrace that the developers have been allowed to get away without putting in the basic infrastructure in to support this development especially as they have profited so much themselves from this development.

"Residents bought their homes in good faith believing that the road would be built, only to see any profits that should have gone towards building the road be paid out as dividends to the developer's shareholders. Now those same developers have the nerve to say they can't afford to build the road and taxpayers should pay again.

"I've been asked by the local Tory councillor for Brymbo to join his campaign for more taxpayers' money to go to Brymbo Developments. I certainly want the road to be built but the company has had plenty of public money already to clean up the site. It has made millions from that site and should finance the road that links those houses to the rest of Brymbo through its own resources."

The company accounts for 2005-6 - the latest filed by the company - admits "the gross margin is substantial and can be attributed to the sale of land".

Janet Ryder said: "To take that much money out of the company in a dividend to shareholders is just plain greedy. A fraction of that dividend could have paid for the road."

The parent company Parkhill 2000 is owned by three men - 90% is owned by Colin Cornes of Shifnal, Shropshire, and the rest by two other Shropshire-based businessmen - Niall Crabb and P J Smyth.

Janet Ryder added: "I understand that Brymbo Developments managed to persuade Wrexham Council to allow it to build more housing on land adjacent to the Sports and Social Club, saying it needed this extra cash to build the road. This time the council had the good sense to insist on a section 106 agreement. This stated that no housing could be built before the spine road had been built but I gather that the company is even refusing to sign this deal.

"I'm surprised that the Tories have been taken in by the company's pleading without doing some basic research into the company's finances. We should not give taxpayers' money to companies who are paying out huge dividends to their shareholders.

"I hope the council sticks to its guns and makes sure the company builds the spine road to ensure the old steelworks site is developed to its full potential in terms of jobs as well as housing."

Monday, 1 December 2008

When does 160 = 223?

Apparently when it's the number of homes allowed on a piece of land by Wrexham Council.

Wrexham Council's own Unitary Development Plan, which still guides planning in this borough, states that "no more than 160" homes are allowed on the piece of National Trust land at Rhostyllen.

Tonight's planning committee debate on the matter, at which Cllr Carrie Harper and myself were not allowed to contribute or vote, heard planning officers argue that 160 was not a fixed number but could - in fact - mean 223. This, by coincidence, is the number of homes the National Trust now wants to build on the farmland. The willingness to accommodate developers was a symptom of the old regime at Wrexham Council and tonight was a reminder that that old regime still has some life in it.

And what of those rapacious developers?

The National Trust, whose very name now seems like a sick joke, has decided that it can only win the argument by misleading the public. At a recent meeting with campaigners they stated that no National Trust money could be used to subsidise Erddig because it was a special case. We reported this honestly to the press. The Trust then claimed that this was not the case because it had spent £1m from its central funds on Erddig in the past five years.

Tonight we received a clarification of this doublespeak - it appears the Trust has merely loaned the money to Erddig and, when the development takes place, it will have to repay that loan in full.

Don't trust the trust.