Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Llangollen, Wrecsam?


Interesting to read about hotel owner Stephanie Booths master plan to move Llangollen into Wrecsam because Tesco have an application to build a supermarket in the town, nothing to do with the fact that the store would be sited next to one of her hotels of course. Stephanie and the 'Llangollen Chamber of Trade and Tourism' claim to have already spent £5000 getting ready for the move, a leap they claim they are determined to go ahead with should Denbighshire council grant planning permission for the supermarket.

I know quite a few people from Llangollen but not one who has anything to do with either Mrs Booth or the so called Chamber of Trade and Tourism, in fact I have heard from many residents who are pretty fed up with Stephanie Booth throwing her considerable influence around in the town. I wonder if anyone in Llan other than Mrs Booth and her pals have actually endorsed this latest proposal?

The following quote from Mrs Booth also raises an eyebrow:

“I have checked with Wrexham County Borough Council and they would welcome Llangollen and are 100 per cent against the supermarket” .

I have to wonder who she actually spoke to in Wrecsam council? There is certainly no one person I can think of who would have the authority to either welcome Llangollen or otherwise. Even if Llangollen were ever to come into Wrecsam, there isn't anyone at the authority who could pre judge the outcome of a planning application prior to it coming to the planning committee. I therefore find Mrs Booths claims very strange indeed.

No doubt there are a range of different views locally about the possibility of a Tesco coming to Llangollen and certainly people should have the opportunity to voice their opinion one way or another and to campaign against it if they wish to do so. However, I would have to question the motives of anyone who thinks they've got the right to move a local authority boundary purely because of one planning application which directly affects their business.

Plaid candidate Arfon Jones welcomes ‘4 Wales 4 Scotland’


Plaid Cymru’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Wrecsam, Arfon Jones has welcomed the joint announcement from Plaid and SNP in Westminster today.

On Wednesday, the leaders of Plaid and the SNP unveiled '4 Wales, 4 Scotland' – a joint agreement to secure a better deal for the people of Scotland and Wales in the event of a hung parliament.

The key elements of the four part programme will be:

1. Fair funding for Wales and Scotland
2. Protecting local services and the most vulnerable
3. Action to help the green economy
4. Support for business growth

Plaid’s Arfon Jones said:
“This is now a very exciting time for Plaid Cymru. There is a very real possibility that none of the London parties will gain a majority at the election - which means that the role of Plaid in the negotiations is huge.

“The people of Wrecsam face very deep threats under both Labour and the Tories which will threaten local and Wales-wide economic recovery. We are still feeling the brunt of a brutal recession and what we need now is to stimulate the economy.

“Only with more Plaid MPs will we be able to fight these cuts – cuts that are widely accepted to be ‘harsher and deeper’ than those of Margaret Thatcher.

“Plaid will fight for fair funding and vital concessions to protect Wales and Wrecsam – our schools, hospitals and frontline services. The ‘4 Wales 4 Scotland’ pledges really go to the heart of what we desperately need.

Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones AM said:
"In their race for the keys to Number 10, the London Parties have forgotten about what really matters to voters in Scotland and Wales but the SNP and Plaid Cymru have not.

“With the prospect of a balanced parliament becoming more likely by the day, we believe that an election that gives no single party an overall majority would be the best possible outcome for our nations.

“A Celtic alliance of Plaid and SNP MPs would be in a position to negotiate real benefits for the people of Wales and Scotland.

“The greater the vote for Plaid and the SNP – the better the deal for Wales and Scotland. This is an exciting opportunity to make a real difference.

“We would demand fairer funding for Wales and Scotland to protect jobs, our schools, our hospitals and the most vulnerable in society.

"At the heart of our platform there would also need to be a real commitment to grow our economies through fast transport links and additional support to create thousands of high-quality jobs in the green and creative industry sectors.”

Blogio yn Gymraeg.

Mae Blog Menai wedi codi cywilydd arnaf gan fy mod ddim yn blogio'n ddigon amal drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg a dwi'n addo gneud gwell ymdrech (a Marc hefyd!!) yn y dyfodol (ar ol yr etholiad). Dwi hefyd yn gweld pwynt Cai ynglyn a blog dwyiaethog...pam? Os ydy y blog mewn dwy iaith tybed prun mae pobol yn mynd i'w darllen? Dyna y broblem sydd gan Gwilym Euros ag Aeron M Jones gyda blogiau gwbwl ddwyiaethog; mae nhw am flogio yn Gymraeg on teimlo yr angen i gyfiethu i gyrraedd cynulleidfa fwy eang.

Gwilym Euros Roberts.

Mae Gwilym yn gymeriad amlwg a chyhoeddus gyda barn ddadleuol ar nifer o faterion yn arbennig yn ymwneud ar iaith a diwylliant Gymreig. Dwi o'r un farn ag Alwyn ap Huw fod ymddygiad gwleidydd y tu allan i wleidyddiaeth yn berthnasol ac yn gyhoeddus ac hefyd yn fesur o gymeriad yr unigolyn. Felly mi ddylsa yr adroddiad yma yn y Daily Post heddiw fod yn fater o ddiddordeb gyhoeddus gan fod Gwilym ddim yn unig yn Gynghorydd Sir lleol ond hefyd yn ddarpar ymgeisydd dros Llais Gwynedd yn erbyn Dafydd Elis Tomos. Mae nifer o gwestiynau yn codi o'r adroddiad yma, sef be oedd Gwilym yn neud yn yr Oakley Arms am tua saith yn yn bore? Yn ail pwy oedd y ddau cafodd eu hanafu? Ar trydydd pwynt ydy gawn ni byth wybod yr hanes os na wneith y sawl a wnaeth y gwyn fynd ar mater yn ei flaen?

Be sydd wir angen ydy i Gwilym roi ei ochor o o'r stori ag i roi terfyn ar y dyfalu!

NODYN - O dan Cod Ymddygiad Aelodau mae "Raid i chi (Cynghorwyr) beidio ag ymddwyn mewn ffordd y gellid yn rhesymol ei hystyried yn un sy'n dwyn anfri ar eich swydd neu ar eich awdurdod. Mae hi hefyd yn ddyletswydd ar Gynghorwr i adael i'w Swyddog Monitro wybod os rydyn't wedi cael ei cyhuddo o drosedd...ond bod yn deg dydy Gwilym heb ei gyhuddo eto. Ond mae hi'n edrych yn debyg fel bydd Pwyllgor Safonnau Cyngor Sir Gwynedd yn gorfod ymchwilio i'r mater hyn.

Labour, Tory - same old sleazy story

The Dispatches expose of ex-Labour ministers queuing up to sell their "expertise" and insider contacts for up to £5,000 a day brought back memories of the dying days of Major's government in the 1990s and cash for questions.
But the similarities don't end there, as Private Eye reveals today. Among the comments made by these sleazy money grabbers that didn't make the final cut were some revealing words about the similarity between Labour and Tory.
The undercover reporter asked how good their links were with the Tories, given the likelihood of a change of regime in Westminster.
Baroness Morgan, Tony Blair's right-hand woman, said:
"We're all the same, we're all supporting the same agenda of private involvement."

Former minister Stephen Byers said:
"I wouldn't have a problem ringing up David Cameron because I know him - I'm not a sort of tribal Labour person particularly."
Geoff Hoon, the ex-defence secretary, suggested the lobbying company he thought he was talking to should
"find yourself some ex-politician, because they can open doors for you ... and it doesn't really matter whether they're Conservative or Labour."

No surprise to learn that the cosy Westminster club continues whether it's Labour or Tory in power.

One down, one to go - former Wrexham FC chairman's directorship ban


This news will cause some satisfaction among football fans in the know. Some of them made it their life mission to make sure that Guterman and Hamilton didn't get their hands on our club and its most valuable asset, the Racecourse. They nearly succeeded and it's only because of the dedication of that small band of supporters that prevented total disaster.
They were the spark for me producing a BBC documentary for Week In, Week Out that exposed their scam with the aid of Lindsay Jones and Dave Davies amongst others. I don't think I ever enjoyed making a programme more, despite the legal threats from Hamilton and his personal promise to get "producer boy" sacked from the BBC.
Guterman may never be a UK company director again but he's not exactly penniless in Monaco, is he? Hamilton - one of the strangest men I ever met - remains at large.
He remains owner of the Lex training fields in Stansty, which he transferred from Wrexham FC to his own personal ownership for a mere £90,000. I wonder what will become of those fields in the future?

A former chairman of Wrexham FC has been banned from being a director of any UK company for seven years.
The Insolvency Service said Mark Guterman's disqualification takes effect next week after he gave an undertaking to government officials.
The club entered administration in 2004 with debts of £4m and was saved in 2006 by a local business consortium.
Moves to ban former owner Alex Hamilton from holding any directorship began at the civil court of justice this week.
The case, which is being heard in Manchester and is being brought on behalf of the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, is expected to last four weeks.
Mr Hamilton is challenging claims of unfit conduct while he was in charge of the football club.
Mr Hamilton took over as chairman of Wrexham FC from his former business partner Mr Guterman in 2004.
After Wrexham went into administration, local MP Ian Lucas - now Business Minister - wrote to the then Department of Trade and Industry asking for an investigation and calling for both men to be disqualified from holding any directorships.
He welcomed the announcement that Mr Guterman, who now lives in Monaco, had given a disqualification undertaking.
"I am very pleased that this undertaking has been given and it shows that action can - and will - be taken against those who fail to fulfil their role as directors properly.
"Many people who follow Wrexham Football Club will join me in welcoming this news."

Monday, 29 March 2010

Wigley's whistlestop tour hits Wrecsam


Plaid honorary president Dafydd Wigley was in town today to back Arfon Jones's parliamentary campaign.

Dafydd, one of the most respected politicians in Wales, made clear that he was thrilled with the progress Plaid has made in the area in the past few years.

He said:
"Many voters are turning away from the Westminster-based parties in this election.

“Plaid's outstanding record of being clean of sleaze at Westminster, and of giving the lead to avoid such problems in the Assembly makes Plaid candidates - like Arfon Jones in Wrecsam - a natural choice for voters disgruntled with the London parties.

“Plaid stands to win its highest-ever tally of seats in the new House of Commons in the forthcoming election.

“Every vote strengthens the Party's hands in fighting for a better deal for Wales.”

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Marek the Tory?

Wrecsam's Ramada Hotel is playing host to a Tory party press conference this morning at which Nick Bourne (Welsh Tory Assembly leader) and Cheryl Gillan (Tory shadow Welsh Secretary) will apparently unveil their latest recruit.
Word on the streets* is that the Tories are about to welcome on board John Marek, a man who stood against Labour and won in 2003 on a left-wing ticket. Back then he argued that Labour had betrayed its roots and met Tommy Sheridan's Scottish Socialist Party to discuss policies. With Ron Davies he formed Forward Wales, a left party calling for a full parliament for Wales.
Given the promises made to Mohammed Asghar when he defected to the Tories last year - a prime position on the regional list plus the employment of his daughter - one wonders what the Tories are offering Marek?
A pop at his former colleague Lesley Griffiths for the Assembly seat next year seems the most obvious, but will the Tories locally be able to back this former left-winger?
Perhaps Bourne might like to ponder what he is creating with his extravagant promises to maverick defectors.

* Word on the streets last night was of another maverick politician close to Marek. But, as they say, a week is a long time in politics.

Polisi Derbyn i Ysgolion Cymraeg

Mae hi'n sobor o beth fod rhieni sydd wedi dewis gyrru ei plant i ddosbarth meithrin mewn Ysgol Gymraeg a drwy hynny yn dangos ymrwymiad i'r iaith Gymraeg yn gorfod symud ei plant o'r ysgol pan maent yn mynd i'r dosbarth derbyn oherwydd y gor-alw sydd am addysg Gymraeg. Mae polisi derbyn rhan fwyaf o ysgolion wedi ei selio ar y pellter rhwng ysgol a chartref a chydig arall. Dwi o'r farn y dylsa plant sydd yn mynychu ysgol feithrin mewn Ysgol Gymraeg gael blaenoriaeth i fynd i ddosbarth derbyn os mae hyny ydy dewis y rhiaint. Ar hyn o bryd dydy hynny ddim yn bosib gan fod addysg feithrin ddim yn statudol er bod Cyfnod Sylfaen yn mynd o 3 i 7 oed.

Dyma be a ddywed y Cynulliad ar y mater yn eu Cod Derbyn i Ysgolion (Para 2.54):
Rhaid i awdurdodau derbyn BEIDIO a chynnwys mynychu'r feithrinfa...yn eu meini prawf ar gyfer gor-alw.

Mae angen rhoi pwysau ar y Cynulliad i newid eu polisi yn y fan hyn i ffafrio y plant yma sydd ar gallu i siarad Cymraeg. Pam nad ydym yn gallu defnyddio y gallu i siarad Cymraeg fel blaenoriaeth i blant gael ei derbyn i Ysgol Gymraeg?

Mae ysgolion ffydd yn gallu rhoi meini prawf ar gyfer gor-alw sydd yn seiliedig ar ffydd y plentyn. Dyma a ddywed Cod y Cynulliad,
"Gall ysgolion sydd wedi ei dynodi'n rai crefyddol eu cymeriad roi blaenoriaeth yn ei trefniadau derbyn i aelodau ffydd neuenwad penodol."

Ydy hyn yn cyd fynd a deddfwriaeth gydraddoldeb? Gellir blaenoriaethu o ran ffydd ond ddim o ran iaith?

The perks are going!

One of the main stories in the Sunday Times today is the one about Gordon Brown telling senior Army officers to travel second class to save costs. Needless to say this is not a popular move with senior officers claiming they need to travel first class because they need to work on the train and there are confidentiality issues, to which I would say, 'welcome to the real world.' I regularly travel to Cardiff, second class and I use the opportunity to read papers in preparation, I wouldn't think of using First class.

The Army aren't the only ones to maintain a system of privelege the Police are exactly the same, Superintendents and above can travel First class whilst the rest travel second class. In 30 years with the Police I only recall travelling First Class twice and that was because I was accompanying a Superintendent on both occasions.

Another area within the Public Services that stink of privilege and inequality is that of leased cars. In North Wales Police for example 51 Police and Support staff have leased cars, of those 24 are Superintendent's and above, whilst only 9 are of ranks of Chief Inspector or below. The total anticipated cost of running the leased car scheme for this year is £340,000 or £6,700 each, nice if you can get it.

Unsurprisingly a large number of Police Officers use their own cars for which they get reimbursed at casual user rate which is taxable. One would expect that leased cars for senior officers to be taxed as a benefit as well but I think you'll find that 'emergency vehicles' are exempt which is why most lease cars are fitted with blue lights in the grills. So not only do senior Police Officers get a perk at public expense but are also exempt from paying tax on the benefits.

One of the burning issues within local authorities recently has been the need to equalise pay and conditions following equal pay claims. Many of the issues were around who was entitled to essential user allowance and who wasn't and whether an equal pay claim was possible from this inequality. If Local Authorities are subject to equal pay claims how come other public bodies like North Wales Police are not even though they seem to have thoroughly unequal policies as regards travel costs and lease cars.

Perhaps the North Wales Police Project 2011+ team should start looking for their £14 million savings starting with the lease car system and first class travel perks.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Hightower Lowdown again!

The latest from Jim Hightower! He could well have been talking about Lord Ashcroft, Unite or the three ex Labour Ministers!
"Never try to teach manners to a pig," advises an old country saying – "it wastes your time, and it annoys the pig."

The same could be said of trying to teach basic ethics to our congress critters. Among the worst misbehavers in our Congressional pig pen are some senior members of the appropriations committee, both Republicans and Democrats. They have a bad habit of taking campaign contributions from corporations, then secretly slipping special grants of taxpayer money – called "earmarks" – to those very same corporations.

Consider the case of PMA, a powerhouse lobbying firm that specializes in getting lucrative earmarks for corporations doing business with the Pentagon. In March of 2008, PMA's clients and lobbyists gave nearly $50,000 to Rep. Pete Visclosky, an Indiana Democrat who sits on the defense Appropriations Committee. One week after Pete's fundraising event, he requested $14 million in earmarks for PMA's clients.

Let's see – $50,000 in, $14 million out. Wow, what a sweet deal for the corporations, lobbyists, and Visclosky. For us taxpayers and advocates for good manners, however – hmmm, not so sweet.

Of course, the house ethics committee – made up of Visclosky's bipartisan colleagues – investigated this ethical ugliness. Its conclusion: "Simply because a member sponsors an earmark for an entity that also happens to be a campaign contributor does not, on these two facts alone, support a claim that a member's actions are being influenced by campaign contributions."

Thank God this committee is not in charge of something important – like, for example, the fire department – for they'd say: "go back to sleep, for flames are not cause for alarm."

Councils to be handed housing powers!

This Press Release from John Healey the Westminster Housing Minister is to be welcomed, these changes are long overdue. The following paragraph quoting John Healey will have a significant impact on Wales:
This is a once and for all settlement between central and local government. It will bring council house funding up to date. Councils will get the freedom to fund and run their council homes, without central government subsidy,’ he said.

‘Not a single penny from rents or sales will go to Whitehall and not a single penny will subsidise other councils as the current system dictates.’

At present 21 of the 22 Welsh Local Authorities pay a Housing Subsidy to the Treasury and it would appear that Healey intends to end the Housing Subsidy system in England so we can but presume that the same will happen in Wales and that will release £11 million for Wrecsam alone to build more social housing. Begs the question why we need to transfer our council stock especially as the council doesn't have to pay VAT whereby Housing Associations do.

Cameron fail

Chip away at the slicky constructed PR veneer and "Dave" Cameron falls apart fairly easily as this clip demonstrates. Hilarious!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

50% or bust

Tonight's full council meeting was the last opportunity for Wrecsam councillors to discuss the merits of a 50% affordable housing threshold.
The Plaid Cymru group put the motion forward to increase the affordable housing threshold from the 30% proposed level to 50%. This, we believed, will actually deliver the number of affordable houses needed in the borough during the lifetime of the new Local Development Plan.
The motion was unfortunately defeated by 23-13 but it was good to see independent, Lib Dem and Labour councillors join our campaign for more affordable housing.

Other votes on the night saw a positive vote on the joint council-union decision to accept ACAS over pay and conditions. Despite the consensus in favour, some saw fit to vote against a positive conclusion to this.

The most contentious decision - on travellers sites in Brymbo,Chirk and Ruthin Rd - saw a broad consensus in favour of excluding Chirk and Brymbo from the sites. This backs up Plaid's consistent line throughout the planning process.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Labour's response to Baby P will cause more children to suffer.

So says Madeline Bunting a Guardian columnist in yesterday's edition of the Guardian. In the article she states:
When the balance sheet is drawn up of Labour's attempts to reform public services – its massive increases in health and education, children's centres and Sure Starts – there is one sorry tale that needs to be added to the deficit column. It is an unedifying story of idealistic ambition's unintended consequences, an obsession with accountability, a deluded faith in technology, alternate penny-pinching and enormous flamboyant unfunded commitments, and always a preoccupation with playing to the Murdoch media. This has been the poisonous recipe that Labour has applied to child protection and by the time the full extent of this chaotic legacy becomes clear, the party will probably have long since left office...

She goes on to say:
...This constant revolution has been compounded by intermittent bouts of intense media hostility to social workers. Ed Balls' collusion with the witch-hunt of Sharon Shoesmith, director of children's services in Haringey in 2008, is the most egregious example.

The result is a social work profession in turmoil: there is a national recruitment and retention crisis – some local authorities have been struggling with vacancy rates of 30 to 40%. The reliance on agency staff is chronic, and the churn rate in many areas makes continuity of case supervision impossible. Meanwhile the longer term legacy of Baby Peter has been a sharp increase (20%) in the number of children taken into care, yet no increased funding is on the table.

Every child only matters if you put in the money and the people who can make that meaningful, otherwise it's the equivalent of putting an "I care for the planet" sticker on your 4x4. Social workers have been given an impossible job; you have to be mad, desperate or heroic to want to be one. But it is abused children who will end up paying the steepest price.

So there we have it, a pretty damning indictement of Labour's 13 years in power and their contribution to children's social care.

Mediatheque.

Yesterday Wrecsam Library re opened its doors following an extensive refurbishment resulting in a much larger and airier environment. The official opening was undertaken by Ruth Jones or Nessa of Gavin and Stacey fame ably assisted by the master of ceremonies Councillor Bob Dutton OBE, Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Libraries. The ceremony was particularly well attended with literally hundreds of people present for the official opening, testimony no doubt to the popularity of Gavin and Stacey and Nessa.

What particularly interested me was the British Film Institute (BFI) Mediatheques, only the fourth in the UK and the first in Wales. The Mediatheque,
"is a digital jukebox of film an TV featuring many of the best, the rarest and the most extraordinary titles from the BFI NAtional Archive. Collect a free ticket from the library desk, and log on to one of our viewing stations, choose from over 1500 complete films and TV programmes and watch them free at the click of the mouse. Revisit classics of British film and TV and make new discoveries - over 85% of the titles are only available to watch in a BFI Mediatheque or plan your viewing in advance by checking out the BFI's website

What a great resource for the people of Wrecsam and North East Wales and our thanks go out to all the WCBC officers concerned,particularly, Alun Watkin, Dylan Hughes and Hedd ap Emlyn

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Gordon Brown bottles it

Readers will recall my previous blogs, here and here, on the contribution of Hedge funds and short selling on the demise of the Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS, forcing the taxpayers to bail the banks out. In response to that crisis in the Autumn of 2008, the government 'suspended' short selling in bank shares for 3 months and the day after the suspension ended shares in Barclays fell by 35% which clearly showed that Hedge Fund Managers had learnt nothing from the financial crisis and that nothing less than regulation of hedge funds will do. Unfortunately Gordon Brown has bottled it by lobbying to get a European Directive to limit the activities of hedge funds binned.

The Observer in their Comment today said,
"Gordon Brown is confused about financial services. Sometimes he sees them as a legitimate target of popular anger, deserving punitive regulation. But sometimes he sees them as precious economic assets to be protected and nurtured.

The prime minister has spoken at international summits calling for taxes on speculative transactions and urging greater coordination of financial supervision. But when the EU proposes specific measures to limit the activities of hedge funds, Mr Brown knocks them into the long grass.

Last week, Mr Brown successfully lobbied to keep the "alternative investment directive" off an agenda of EU leaders. The new rules, which would impose tighter restrictions on where funds can operate, how much they can borrow and how much they have to disclose about their bets, are now on hold. They could be killed altogether by a Tory government.

Naturally that is what that hedge funds want. They argue that they did not cause the crisis (it was banks) and that they are a scapegoat for anti-market forces on continental Europe.

That is arrogant and wrong. Hedge funds attached to banks such as Bear Stearns and BNP, which had borrowed billions for risky speculation, were instrumental in the break down of confidence in markets that saw credit suddenly dry up. Besides, the destructive culture of taking wild bets while devising complex financial tricks to pass risk elsewhere, is integral to the hedge fund business game.

The alternative investment directive is not, as some financiers and Conservatives have sought to portray it, a conspiracy by European socialists to undermine British capitalism. It is a tool to limit practices that Mr Brown has himself suggested need regulation. But it will be harder now for him to take that line. Most EU governments suspect that a British prime minister always does the City's bidding in the end. It is a shame that Mr Brown has proved them right.

Gordon Brown shows again that his loyalty and committment is to the City of London and the big financiers and not the people of this country.

'Why are Wrecsam tenants subsidising London councils?'

PRESS RELEASE.

'Why are Wrecsam tenants subsidising London councils?'


London councils are being subsidised through the UK Treasury clawing money from Welsh council tenants.

Wrecsam tenants alone are paying out 11.2 million annually as part of system that local Plaid Cymru councillors have described as "daylight robbery".

Councillor Arfon Jones, who represents Gwersyllt West, said:
"The Housing Revenue subsidy system was originally designed to prevent council housing accounts making a loss but has now spiralled into a money-making machine for the UK Treasury, which then pays out surpluses to 50 councils, all but one of which are in England.

"Councils in Hackney got over 48 million in 2009, Islington received 58 million and Manchester got 34 million while only one out of 18 councils* in Wales were paid - Merthyr got just 293,000.

"Wrecsam Council, by contrast, lost 11.2m from its housing revenue account. That 11.2m is a third of all the money Wrecsam Council has to spend on housing in the borough. This amount could easily pay for repairs and renovations to get our housing up to a decent standard for tenants."

He said that the system was currently being reviewed by Assembly deputy housing minister Jocelyn Davies and added:
"Let's be clear, this is daylight robbery on a grand scale and yet we have no say in the Treasury's decision."


Fellow Plaid Cymru councillor Marc Jones, of Whitegate, added:
"Scottish local authorities are not part of this subsidy regime but Welsh councils pay nearly 100m to the Treasury. This in turn is paid to various boroughs in London and other metropolitan areas in England. It's a scandal and completely unacceptable.

"At a time when some Wrecsam councillors want to push for another vote on stock transfer, we must push for an urgent reform of this disgraceful situation."

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Hightower Lowdown.

One of my favourite political pamphlets is the Hightower Lowdown written by Jim Hightower who describes himself as,
"National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks."

When I read this article by Jim, I immediately thought is this the way it will be if the Tories get in and George Osborne is the Chanchellor:
I have to ask: Does the Republican Party have a secret "Stupid Farm" where it breeds and raises senators?

How else to explain the far-out loopiness of several GOP solons who constantly confuse ideology with intelligence? Recently, for example, we were treated to the spectacle of Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning shutting down the US Senate. This former baseball pitcher hurled himself into a goofball effort to block a one-month extension of unemployment benefits. Never mind that millions of hard-hit Americans are out of work, out of savings, and would be out of luck without the lifeline of unemployment payments, Bunning fell into a ideological snit over this expenditure of public funds. Some of his colleagues finally had to get a net and gently remove him from the public scene he was making.

But Bunning's stunt set off an aftershock of stupidity in the head of Sen. Jon Kyl. Suddenly, this Arizona Republican was up on his hind legs asserting that "continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."

Yoo-hoo, Senator Kyl, please honk if your spaceship ever comes near earth again.

This is the worst economy since the Great Depression. More than 15 million Americans are jobless, with many of them going without work for months despite desperately searching every day. Apparently Kyl is clueless that corporations are firing, not hiring.

And, by the way, Senator, Wall Street bankers also are not investing in job-creating enterprises, even though you voted to bail them out with billions of taxpayer dollars. It seems they have no incentive to invest in America's grassroots recovery, because – well, gosh, you gave them our money with no strings attached.

We need to shut down this Stupid Farm before it produces more Bunnings and Kyls.

Doesn't seem to me like some politicians this side of the pond are that different from their right wing American mates!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Make it public

I'm concerned to hear from residents from Brymbo that Planning officers have refused to release information relating to the process by which the three proposed gypsy and traveller sites were chosen for Wrecsams upcoming local development plan. I see no reason what so ever as to why this information should not be made public.

A wide range of issues were discussed by the Planning Policy Panel in Wrecsam over the last 18 months in order to make recommendations for the new local development plan. As a panel member, I have raised concerns about this panel and its governance and also the fact that all meetings were deemed confidential. Other Councillors tried to attend the first meeting of the panel but were told by officers that they couldn't come in, thankfully this was over ruled by the chair of the panel who clearly disagreed with this thinking.

Councillors on the panel have put in a lot of work over the last 18 months as regards the local plan, a lot of positive things have come out of that process, although I personally disagree with several of the final recommendations. However, I feel that the process generally and the panel itself was too closed off, I see no reason why the panel should not have been open to the public and minutes and agendas made available to other Councillors as would happen under the usual scrutiny process.

The gypsy and travellers sites are only one part of a local development plan which will dictate all development in the County Borough until 2021. With this being such an important strategy and in the interests of openness and transparency, it's essential that there is more public involvement in these processes, the quality of life of local people will be directly affected by this document.

It can come as no surprise that members of the public are now questioning the fairness of this process and are stating that it was not done in the interests of the electorate or in the interests of open government. I would urge planning officers to make any documents requested by members of the public available for open scrutiny, not in several months time when their comments will be passed to the planning inspectorate but now in order for the authority to take into account people's views.

Update: Planning officers have now agreed to release the information as there are no legal grounds to withhold it.

Martyn Jones, the pensioner

It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry at this smug exchange between Martyn Jones (Clwyd South, Labour) and Welsh Secretary Peter Hain. If Martyn had more time I'm sure he would have mentioned that, unlike most Welsh pensioners, he will get a final salary pension scheme worth around £30,000 a year, a fat retirement pay-off as well as the profits from the sale of any state-subsidised properties he may have accumulated in London.
If he's still struggling along, I can recommend a very good luncheon club in Gwersyllt for pensioners. Unfortunately the meals there are a little more expensive than the subsidised restaurants and bars in the Commons.

Martyn Jones (Clwyd South, Labour)
As my right hon. Friend has said, I shall, sadly, be standing down at the next election and beginning my retirement in Wales.

Far more sadly, I shall shortly be staring the state pension age in the face; I know that that is hard to believe. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the real benefits enjoyed by pensioners in Wales are maintained, especially winter fuel payments?

Peter Hain (Secretary of State, Wales Office; Neath, Labour)
My hon. Friend's young appearance will be sadly missed, particularly the bow tie, which is almost unique in the Chamber. I agree with him that winter fuel payments-introduced by this Government, and increased by them to £400 a year for those over 80 and £250 a year, tax-free, for those over 60-are a vital support measure, as are free bus passes and free prescriptions, especially in Wales. All those benefits would be under threat, if the £20 billion cuts promised by the shadow Business Secretary were introduced, which is what we would expect from a Conservative Government.


He'll also have time to realise that only Plaid is offering a fair deal for pensioners - ending the means-test misery that sees thousands not claiming what is rightfully theirs.

The new Lib Dem colours!


This is the most recent contribution from the Liberal Democrats to the political debate in Wrecsam. You will note the change in colour schemes, none of the orange normally associated with that wishy washy party. No, its now all pink and blues probably to disguise that its a Lib Dem leaflet bereft of ideas.

We all know that the Lib Dems are pretty adept at dirty tricks and they haven't changed with this leaflet version either. First of all they plagiarise the name of the leaflet Wrexham Voice/Llais Wrecsam which is the name normally associated with Plaid Cymru newsletters and have been for a number of years; but why steal something from Plaid Cymru? I thought the Lib Dems though of us as insignificant with no hope of winning? Did they steal our identity because they realise that Plaid Cymru have a higher profile in Wrecsam than the Lib Dems? They clearly see Plaid Cymru as a threat and after their dismal European result that is hardly surprising, as in the rest of Wales the Lib Dems are an irrelevance.

On the front of the leaflet we have a photograph of their candidate for Wrecsam, Tom Rippeth and "Why I love Wrexham" Shame he doesn't love the town enough to live and work there and I wonder how often he will be seen in the town once he adds this election to the list of his political failures.

Inside this leaflet Tom reminds us of his few campaign contributions; preventing neurology services going to Swansea, opposing centralisation into an All Wales Police Force and opposing Post Office closure...but I can hear you say "All that is old hat" and you're quite right. There is a saying, "You're only as good as your last job," Well if that is Tom's last job as a Lib Dem candidate then God help us if he get's elected.

There is one thing I would agree with what Tom says in his leaflet, "We have a great local council who have worked with local schools to improve education across the town" I'm sure the eight councillors on the Excecutive Board who are not Lib Dems really appreciate that endorsement.

...and by the way their leaflet was printed by Park Communications Ltd, Alpine Way, London E6 6LA. Thanks for supporting local Welsh companies Tom.

...oh, and by the way it seems the Lib Dems have binned their infamous campaigning tool, THE GRAPH; that shows that only the Lib Dems can beat Labour here (You can fool some of the people some of the time...etc!)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

City status for Wrecsam? Ask the people what they want

Posted by Cllr Carrie Harper of Queensway:

I'm intrigued by the latest flurry of calls, mainly from Labour politicians for Wrecsam to have City Status. Yet again, it would seem no one has bothered to ask the people of Wrecsam what they want. The bulk of politicians calling for this are not even from Wrecsam and therefore in my opinion are not best placed to decide what's best for the town. Each time the city status idea has been touted in the local press over the last few years, the vast majority of responses from local residents have been negative.

The latest calls have come from the manager of Eagles Meadow, who said in the Leader today:

“We’d be on top of the world if we achieved city status. It would be a massive fillip for the town and for business in the town. Eagles Meadow has enhanced Wrexham’s credentials as a shopping centre and city status would make us an even more attractive destination for shoppers and visitors.”


Not quite sure everyone would agree that Eagles Meadow has enhanced anything in Wrecsam, with one local Facebooker describing the new shopping centre as 'The tower of Mordor', not the first negative comment I've heard I have to admit. My personal opinion is that Wrecsam has historically been a market town and a town it should remain. I feel keeping this identity and building on this identity will give us the most sustainable economic future for locally based growth and therefore a better quality of life.

Whatever happens, the people of Wrecsam should decide the future of our town. We're the one's who live here, give us a consultation, let people ask the questions they want and put it to a vote.

Heads must roll over Plas Madoc Communities First scandal

Today saw the publication of one of the most damning official reports I have ever seen. It revealed that tens of thousands of pounds meant to be spent by Plas Madoc Communities First on the most deprived community in the borough was diverted to family and friends of senior officers.

Here are the detailed findings of the Wales Audit Office team:

DETAILED FINDINGS
Payments to Family Members

22. Our investigation revealed a number of payments to non-PMCF staff members. We sought
clarification of who these people are and many are related to the Coordinator. We are aware that
several of the Coordinator’s family members receive payments from PMCF for services provided,
with one being directly employed. The details of these costs are:
• Brother 1 received a mobile phone from PMCF, incurring costs of £1,460, the details of which are
outlined below in para. 28. We found no evidence that he provides any services to PMCF or any
reason why he should be in possession of this phone and be able to incur charges which are then
paid by the partnership.
• Brother 2 receives payments from PMCF to maintain the PMCF caravan sited in Rhyl. The details
of the caravan are outlined in para 56. Furthermore, this individual has a PMCF mobile phone
(para 28). We are aware that Brother 2 has undertaken some work for PMCF, primarily through
his involvement with the Plas Madoc’s Got Talent event for which he received a payment of
£2,000 in 2008 (jointly with his partner as outlined below). We are not aware of any other services
he has provided to PMCF, although we do know that he travelled to the Gambia as part of
PMCF’s Gunjur project. Discussions with staff within PMCF have shown it is unclear what Brother
2’s role was in respect of the Gunjur Project. The Coordinator stated that Brother 2 had fully
repaid the cost of the trip to PMCF, although our testing and discussions with the Finance
Manager showed no evidence of this.
• Brother 3 provides Brazilian Ju Jitsu training. Since March 2006 he has received £40,615 for the
delivery of this training. The invoices submitted for Ju Jitsu training also contain an element for
petrol/wear and tear of his vehicle, however our findings showed that he is also claiming fuel
through PMCF’s account with a local fuel supplier (Para 38).
• Brother 2’s partner is an actress and has been delivering drama classes within PMCF since
December 2006. During this period she has received £22,000 for the delivery of the classes.
She has also been paid for her appearance at Plas Madoc’s Got Talent (£499.00 in 2007 and
£2,000 in 2008, although the 2008 payment was for her and Brother 2’s appearance). Brother 2’s
partner has also been claiming fuel both through the Arval fuel card and the local fuel supplier
account as outlined in para 35. We also noted that during the same period that she was receiving
payment for delivery of the drama classes, another organisation was also providing drama
lessons within PMCF. This was explained by the Coordinator as one of the classes having a
greater focus on certain aspects of drama.
• The Coordinator’s Husband has also received a payment of £319.00 for comparing and singing at
two PMCF events. This is despite the Coordinator claiming both at interview and to the Board
that her Husband received no payment for his services. It was suggested that the payment
reflected the availability of the husband’s broadcasting equipment during the events. The
Coordinator’s Husband also had a PMCF mobile phone (para 28).
18
23. We sought explanations for the appointment of the Coordinator’s family members and were informed
by the Coordinator that Brother 3 was the best possible supplier of Brazilian Ju Jitsu as he was
European Champion and no one else in the area would be able to supply these services. This sport,
in the view of the Coordinator, is more concerned with self control which was of benefit to the
attendees from the local community. Similarly by using Brother 2’s partner, a well known actress to
deliver drama classes it encouraged and inspired more young people to participate.
24. Whilst we accept that these individuals have delivered services to PMCF, we consider that the
payments made have been excessive. Also during the course of our review it became apparent that
the Board were not initially aware of the use of the Coordinator’s family members and they certainly
did not approve such appointments. Instead, Board Members became aware at a later stage of the
relationship between the individuals and the Coordinator. More significantly, the Board was
completely unsighted on the level of payments being made to the Coordinator’s family members.
25. Both of the Finance Officer’s daughters are employed by PMCF, enjoying considerable benefits in
kind such as driving lessons and the use of mobile phones (including call charges) as detailed in
para 30.
26. We are also aware that:
• Brother 3’s partner works within PMCF.
• The Chair’s son has worked for and received payment from PMCF.
• The Coordinator’s Personal Assistant and Company Secretary’s father is a Board Member.
• A Board Member’s wife is employed as a Play/Early Years Participation Officer by the partnership.
The same Board Member is also employed by PMCF.
• The Caretaker is married to a trainer who provided large numbers of courses to the partnership.
27. Whilst it is accepted that in small communities, friends and relatives are often employed by the same
organisation, it is of vital importance that there is transparency and openness when such
appointments are made. In the case of PMCF it is evident that the use of family members by the
Coordinator has not been fully disclosed to the Board and in particular the level of payments and
benefits which have been received by the individuals concerned.
Mobile Phones
28. Our review of invoices showed that a significant amount of expenditure has been incurred on mobile
phone bills by PMCF. Further testing of this area revealed that there was evidence of mobile phones
being allocated to non-PMCF staff. The following costs had been incurred by the Coordinator’s
family members:
• Husband - £800 (Feb 2008 – Sept 2009).
• Brother 1 - £1,460 (April 2007 – Sept 2009) - Av £50 pm.
• Brother 2 - £530. (Dec 2008 – Sept 2009).
Plas Madoc Communities First
Plas Madoc Communities First 19
29. This was queried with the Coordinator who admitted that she had given the phones to her family
members as handsets had been offered “free” by the phone companies. We indicated that whilst the
handset was free there was a cost incurred with line rental/calls. The Coordinator stated that PMCF
was given bundles of free minutes and with one exception she had not been made aware that any
other cost has been incurred. She did admit that on one occasion the Finance Officer had raised the
issue of Brother 2’s phone costs and she had asked that this phone be blocked. Our testing showed
that this phone had not been blocked. When discussing phone costs with the Finance Officer he
stated that he was aware that mobile phones had been allocated to the Coordinator’s family but as
she was his line manager he didn’t feel able to query it. He also stated that she had never
requested, nor had he provided, any information on phone costs. The Board Members were
unaware that non-PMCF staff had mobile phones.
30. Further testing of mobile phones held by PMCF staff demonstrated that considerable costs had been
incurred as outlined below:
• Staff member 1 – £3,611 (April 2008 – Oct 2009) - £116 pm.
• Staff member 2 - £3,202 (April 2008 – Oct 2009).
• Coordinator - £2,631 (April 2008 – Oct 2009) - £80pm.
• Finance Officer – £524 (Annual cost).
It should be noted that all mobile phones costs incurred within PMCF were reviewed and the ones
outlined above are the only ones considered excessive.
Staff member 1 and 2 are the Finance Officer’s daughters, who are both employed by PMCF.
31. The level of mobile phone bills was discussed with the Finance Officer. He stated that he was aware
that the costs were high but considered it to be a “perk of the job”. Similarly it was queried why
individuals who were office based, required a mobile phone. Again it was stated that this was a
“perk”. The Coordinator appeared unsighted on the high level of mobile phone costs and said that in
the past she had blocked phones when charges appeared high and could not be explained by
individuals. The Coordinator does not receive any information on the level of costs incurred by
PMCF on mobile phones. Similarly the Board were unsighted on the level of mobile phone charges.
Fuel/Petrol/Diesel
32. PMCF has three different methods for incurring expenditure on fuel (e.g. petrol and diesel).
• Staff can reclaim any amounts spent through Plas Madoc’s travel and subsistence systems;
• There are fuel “credit cards” used (Arval), which can be handed over at any garage to pay for fuel;
and
• There is an account set up with a local fuel supplier.
33. Our testing showed that staff used all three methods to obtain fuel; however there are no formal
procedures in place to outline how these systems should operate.
20
34. Furthermore, our findings showed that there is no reconciliation to ensure that staff reclaiming money
through the T&S system are not also claiming through the local fuel supplier or using a fuel credit
card. We undertook testing in this area and found no evidence of staff “double claiming,” but it
should be noted that due to the lack of controls over the three mechanisms for claiming fuel we
cannot provide assurance that double claiming has not occurred.
35. Our testing showed that since April 2008 £6,102.14 has been incurred on Arval cards. The vast
amount of expenditure (£4,129.52) has been incurred by the Arval card held by the Coordinator.
Further review showed that the majority of the expenditure was incurred in the Manchester/Bolton
area by a vehicle owned by the Coordinator’s Brother 2’s partner. The Coordinator explained that
she had given her brother 2’s partner the card, to obtain fuel as she was delivering drama classes to
PMCF. This was despite our findings showing that an element of fuel had been included on the
invoices for drama lessons.
36. The Finance Officer also had a fuel card which had incurred costs of £1,300. This was put to the
Finance Officer who claimed that this was a “perk of the job.”
37. Our findings also showed that two PMCF company vehicles have also used a card for legitimate
business purposes.
38. It was very difficult to audit the invoices received from the local fuel supplier as the invoices includes
a statement showing a list of signatures of people who have signed for fuel which is difficult to
decipher. Since April 2006 £25,198 has been spent at the local fuel supplier and we were able to
determine that considerable amounts were being purchased by the Coordinator’s family. These
included
• Brother 3 - £1,633.98. This individual also claimed fuel costs through his invoices to PMCF.
• Husband - £1,365.19. All sorts of vehicles but mostly PMCF vehicles.
• Brother 2 and/or partner = £513.
39. Upon querying this with the Coordinator she stated that Brother 3 claimed fuel as he travelled in
excess of the amounts contained on his invoices. (The same explanation was offered for Brother 2
and partner).
40. We also queried with the Coordinator why the invoices were paid when they contained “blanks”
where people had taken fuel but had not signed for it. She said that she didn’t have sight of any of
the payments made for fuel and was not sure why this would have occurred. The Finance Officer
offered no explanation for this and the Board were unsighted on fuel costs.
41. During our site visit we were also informed by the Finance Manager that staff use the fuel card or the
account with the local fuel supplier to obtain fuel for personal use. We were told that everyone does
this and it is considered a “perk” of the job. The Coordinator disputes that this takes place and
assured us that staff are aware that they should not obtain fuel for personal use. As there is no
process or evidence of management review to confirm that the fuel costs incurred are only for official
business we can gain no assurance over this area.
Plas Madoc Communities First
Plas Madoc Communities First 21
Payroll
42. Prior to the transfer of the payroll function to AVOW, PMCF operated both a weekly and monthly
payroll for staff. Those on the weekly payroll submitted timesheets which were then processed by
the Finance Officer and those on the monthly payroll were paid a standard monthly sum.
43. Our findings showed that there was a complete absence of segregation of duties with regard to the
operation of the payroll with the Finance Officer having sole responsibility for administering and
managing the payroll.
44. Of more significant concern was our testing of the weekly payroll system which showed that the
Finance Officer paid staff even though the majority of timesheets were not authorised. Furthermore,
he processed and paid his own daughter’s timesheets. We also obtained evidence that he created
timesheets on behalf of his daughter or paid her without any timesheet. At interview he confirmed
that this had happened and stated the reason he paid other staff who had submitted unauthorised
timesheets was that people relied on the money and there was only a short window of opportunity for
processing the timesheets.
45. The Finance Officer by authorising his own daughter’s timesheets, has exposed himself to criticism
particularly as we are aware that he has created timesheets on behalf of his daughter before
processing and paying her wages. This represents a fundamental failure in the existence of
segregation of duties and exposes the organisation to significant criticism of nepotism and
preferential treatment.
46. We also found there was no clear and transparent audit trail demonstrating the hourly rates which
were applicable to staff. A review of timesheets and the corresponding payroll showed that various
rates were applied to various members of staff. Whilst we accept that staff are paid different rates for
different posts and at different times of the day, we consider that there should be far greater
transparency in the rates which are used.
47. We were informed that they use JNC pay scales for weekly and monthly paid staff although PMCF
pays above the average for the sector, as this encourages commitment and retention of staff.
48. We also found evidence of one member of staff being paid twice by submitting two timesheets which
indicated that she had been undertaking two jobs at the same time. This had not been detected by
any management checks.
49. It was also of concern to note that volunteers are paid an hourly rate. Our understanding is that
volunteers should only be paid sums to cover their expenses rather than a waged amount.
50. Our findings showed that the Chair of the Board’s Son has worked intermittently for PMCF. It was a
concern to note that he appeared to buy a laptop and software, for which he was then reimbursed
through payroll. He left PMCF shortly afterwards and we could find no evidence that the laptop was
returned.
22
Child Support Agency Issues
51. During our visit we ascertained that the Finance Officer’s salary is paid part through the payroll and
then he invoices PMCF for the balancing amount via his own Company. When querying the
reasoning behind this, we were informed by the Finance Officer that he had done this to artificially
deflate his salary figures for Child Support Agency (CSA) assessment purposes. Furthermore, our
testing showed that since April 2008 £3046.41 worth of payments had been made directly to the CSA
from PMCF. We were informed by the Finance Officer that they related to his own CSA liability and
he was intending to repay the amounts back to PMCF in the future. He stated that some repayment
had already occurred. Our testing showed that £1,989.20 had been recovered from the Finance
Officer’s salary, leaving a shortfall £1,057.21. The Finance Officer stated that he was aware of the
shortfall and the CSA were re-assessing his payment levels and he was confident that this would
resolve the issue.
52. The Coordinator stated that she was aware of the new payment/payroll arrangements for the Finance
Officer’s salary however she was not aware of the issues regarding the CSA payments. IAS are
progressing this matter with the CSA, particularly in view of the apparent measures taken to
artificially deflate the salary figures.
Loans to staff
53. Our audit testing showed that staff within PMCF had been provided with interest-free loans from
PMCF, which were approved by the Coordinator. Whilst a schedule was maintained outlining who
owed loans and the repayments that had been made, there was no formal policy or agreement as to
how the lending of money to staff should be managed and administered. We saw evidence of loans
being repaid through the payroll although it was evident that some members of staff had not repaid
the amount owed and had left PMCF. The Finance Officer admitted that there were outstanding
debts which were unlikely to ever be recovered. We are unable to quantify the full amount of debt
outstanding due to the nominal amounts of money which are sometimes loaned to staff through petty
cash; however we believe the overall sum to be less than £2,000.
54. We asked the Coordinator what the purpose of these loans was and she said that loans were given,
with her agreement, to staff who were in need of them for various reasons. For example the
Coordinator had taken one of her loans from PMCF to pay for a holiday. The Coordinator stated that
she was unaware that some individuals had not repaid loans, as she undertook no review of the
loans process.
55. The provision of loans to staff, particularly when there is no formal policy, does not represent good
financial practice and moreover exposes PMCF to considerable criticism if the “loan scheme” is not
made available to all employees.
Plas Madoc Communities First
Plas Madoc Communities First 23
Caravan
56. PMCF has use of a caravan sited at Rhyl, which is rented out to residents of Plas Madoc to provide
an opportunity to the less fortunate members of the community to have a holiday. Our findings
showed that there is some uncertainty over who owns the caravan; although we found evidence that
a site fee and hire fee are paid annually by PMCF for the apparent rent of an eight berth caravan.
The Coordinator claims that the caravan is owned by PMCF, whilst the Finance Officer originally
asserted that the caravan was rented from the Coordinator’s brother. However, during the latter
stages of our investigation he stated that it appeared that PMCF owned the caravan and the
payments made to the Coordinator’s brother were to maintain the caravan.
57. Our findings showed that a £6,000 fee was paid to the Coordinator’s brother on an annual basis for
the caravan’s maintenance, although we found further evidence that repairs and the maintenance
costs were funded via petty cash, so we are unsure what the £6,000 payment was for. The payment
was made part cash and part cheque. It was observed that the site fees to the caravan park (of
around £2,800) were paid some two months in advance of the payment being made for the hire of
the caravan itself.
58. Whilst there is no direct risk to PMCF of paying cash to a supplier, this does not represent good
practice as cash payment may be requested by suppliers in order to avoid income tax liabilities
and/or VAT.
59. Of more significant concern were our findings relating to the banking of the income generated by the
caravan. Our testing showed that only £60 had ever been banked, although an analysis of the
caravan booking records showed that the following amounts had been receipted through letting the
caravan:
• 2007 - £1735
• 2008 - £1980
• 2009 - £1415
60. This issue was discussed with the PMCF Coordinator who informed us that the member of staff who
had been responsible for receipting the caravan takings during 2009 had been found to be stealing
the money. The member of staff involved was a resident who had been offered support by PMCF
through the opportunity of employment in order to provide her with a more stable lifestyle. The
individual had also received a loan from PMCF of £660; we believe this was to settle rent arrears
and the PMCF loan remains outstanding. The individual concerned had been dismissed the week
prior to our site visit; however the Coordinator stated that the Police had not been contacted as it
was considered to be detrimental to the continued rehabilitation of the individual concerned.
61. We asked both the Coordinator and the Finance Manager for an explanation of what had happened
to the caravan letting monies in previous years and were informed by the Coordinator that the
caravan money was used as an extension of the petty cash when it was needed. For example,
nominal amounts of money (£10-15) were given to residents if they were in financial difficulties and
were awaiting benefits.
24
62. We also asked the Finance Officer what his role was in the operation of the caravan lettings and he
was adamant that he had no involvement in any aspect of the caravan hire, lettings or banking of
monies.
63. It should also be noted that during our visit we reviewed the caravan income cash box, which was
held in the PMCF safe and found it to be empty.
64. We have significant concerns over the entire operation of the caravan scheme and would
recommend that with immediate effect there are robust processes put in place to manage the
caravan-letting process. In particular, all income generated by the caravan should be promptly
banked and accounted for in PMCF’s finance system. PMCF are currently in the process of
establishing who has ownership of the caravan.
Petty Cash
65. We have fundamental concerns over the petty cash system in operation within PMCF. Large items
of expenditure are purchased through petty cash including a car that had been purchased for £2,500.
The car had been bought from a relative of the Finance Officer.
66. Furthermore, we found boxes of receipts which had been processed through petty cash but had not
been accounted for, and contained no explanation of why the expenditure had been incurred. We
are aware that the Treasurer had raised concerns over the level of pretty cash used by PMCF with
the Coordinator but no action was ever taken.
67. We also found evidence of receipts attached to petty cash vouchers being less than the amount
provided through petty cash. We were unable to obtain any explanation for this from the Finance
Officer.
68. Our findings also showed that petty cash payments were made to the Coordinator to reimburse her
for items she claimed to have bought even though no receipts were provided.
69. Good practice suggests that petty cash should only be used for items of minor business expenditure
and normally organisations set a financial limit on the value of items paid for through the petty cash
system (often around £50). It was evident from our limited testing that a significant amount of
transactions were processed through petty cash. This represents a significant risk for the following
reasons:
• normal payment authorisation procedures may be bypassed;
• duplicate payments may be made;
• petty cash could be used for the cashing of personal cheques; and
• petty cash may be stolen.
Plas Madoc Communities First
Plas Madoc Communities First 25
Other financial concerns
70. Our testing showed that invoices do not demonstrate that goods/services have been receipted (or by
whom). The Finance Officer stated that budget holders had responsibility for ordering what ever they
wanted as long as the budget exists. Similarly the Coordinator stated that as long as there was a
budget which was not exceeded, she didn’t undertake any review to ascertain what the funds had
been spent on or if value for money had been achieved.
71. We found evidence of several payments being made to the same supplier on the same day. Upon
querying this we were told that payments are split to fall under the bank mandate requirements so
that the Treasurer’s signature is not required. (Any cheque payment above £500 requires Board
approval).
72. During our review of cheque book stubs we also found blank cheque book stubs not completed. We
were unable to establish why this had occurred. The Finance Officer stated that the Treasurer had
been asked to sign blank cheque so that PMCF would be able to pay large sums in the event he was
away and not able to act as a counter signatory. However, the Treasurer asserted that he would
never sign any cheque without a corresponding invoice and he had certainly not been asked to sign
blank cheques prior to receipt of an invoice. It should also be noted that we found no evidence of
any of these cheques being presented at the bank.
73. The actions in paras 71 and 72 are concerning, particularly as the Treasurer visits PMCF almost
every day so therefore is regularly available to sign any cheques (or other documentation).
74. We also found poor accounting procedures in respect of income-generating activities. PMCF hold
events which generate income; however, the income is never quantified, accounted for and often is
not banked. Instead we were informed that this income is used to supplement petty cash and is
used for expenditure on other items within PMCF. We are therefore unable to determine how much
income is generated from these activities or more importantly what happen to the receipted monies.
75. We have already outlined our concerns over the lack of financial information received by PMCF’s
Board and in particular the lack of awareness Board Members had in respect of the annual
Management Letters produced by PMCF’s appointed auditors. We are aware that the Board have
requested more “user friendly” financial information from the Finance Officer, although this has not
been forthcoming. It appears that the relationship with the PMCF auditors was managed by the
Finance Officer and the Chair informed us at our end of audit fieldwork meeting, that he had been
contacted by the partner responsible for the PMCF audit who had informed him, that on an annual
basis the auditors offered to attend the AGM to present the accounts and audit report, as is normal
practice. The Finance Officer had apparently declined the offer on several occasions stating that he
was able to present the information to the Board himself. Subsequently the Finance Officer was
unavailable to attend the Board meeting; this happened on several occasions.
26
Construction Work
76. Some of the original allegations claimed that construction works undertaken on the Coordinator’s
house were paid for by PMCF. Prior to our initial site visit we received specific evidence in respect of
this matter. However, we have not been able to corroborate any of these claims primarily because
PMCF’s Peris Road premises was being re-developed at the same time as the construction works on
the Coordinator’s own property, so we have no way of knowing whether the invoices paid through
PMCF’s finance system were for valid Peris Road works or for materials which were subsequently
used elsewhere. Furthermore, the invoices and delivery notes show no evidence of where the good
and services were to be delivered. The Coordinator states that these allegations are without
foundation. We are unable to substantiate any of the claims in this area.
Payments to Board Members
77. We saw evidence of a payment of £10,000 in respect of play area project management fees for one
Board Member who is also a Plasterer by trade. (His wife also works for PMCF as the PMCF
Play/Early Years Participation Officer). We saw no evidence that these services were procured
through open competition or the exact specification/purpose of these services. The Coordinator
stated that they had used this individual as he was a local man who had previously done work.
However, it appears that there was never any disclosure to the Board that work had been awarded to
a Board Member.
78. This Board Member also received payment for the “Get out and Play Scheme” and submitted weekly
timesheets to claim payment.
Driving Lessons
79. We found evidence that since March 2008 £3,080 has been spent on driving lessons for staff and not
for the community. The Finance Officer stated that this was a perk although he did indicate that he
believed this was eligible Communities First expenditure. We later established that this is not eligible
Communities First expenditure.
Mediafields
80. Our findings showed that there is a significant amount of expenditure made to a company called
Mediafields for IT hardware, software and support services. In addition there is also significant other
IT expenditure made through outlets such as Staples and through petty cash. We were informed that
when PMCF were initially set up Mediafields were recommended by AVOW as they offered an
excellent service and good value for money. Considering the level of payments to Mediafields, we
would suggest that PMCF need to test the market and obtain quotes to ensure that Mediafields
continues to offer the best value for money.
Plas Madoc Communities First
Plas Madoc Communities First 27
Asset Register
81. Our testing showed that the asset register is not complete or up to date. It is very difficult to
ascertain how many assets are within PMCF or their location. For example, we have been unable to
determine exactly how many laptops are currently in operation within PMCF. This was queried with
the Finance Officer who admitted that a number of laptops had gone missing and the asset register
was not up to date. Furthermore, he stated he leaves the asset register until the year end for the
Auditors to do as “he had been lazy”.
Other unusual items
Parking Fines
82. Our testing showed that parking fines incurred by PMCF staff had been paid for by PMCF. We
queried this practice with the Coordinator who could offer no explanation, even though her own fines
had been paid for by PMCF. The Finance Officer stated that he paid the fines as he was told to do
so by the Coordinator.
Accommodation Costs
83. We also identified that PMCF staff often attend courses and conferences. Our testing showed that
expensive hotel rooms are often booked, particularly in the case of the Coordinator. In one case the
Finance Officer had attended a digital photography course which was held over a weekend in
London; his partner also stayed at the hotel which was paid for by PMCF at a cost of £330. During a
period of bad weather, a local hotel was booked for the Coordinator to enable her to easily access
her place of work. The cost of this was £713.70. The Coordinator claims that the Board approved
this expenditure. Upon discussion of this issue with the Chair, he stated that whilst he had been
aware that the Coordinator had chosen to stay locally during a spell of bad weather, he certainly was
not aware that PMCF had paid for the accommodation.
Gifts to staff
84. We also found evidence that gifts are bought for staff for various occasions (birthdays, wedding etc)
through petty cash. On most occasions the petty cash is refunded through staff contributions but we
are unsure why PMCF monies are used for this purpose. We could obtain no explanation for this.
Christmas Party
85. Evidence was found of an invoice for the 2008 Christmas party totalling £2667.30. This party was for
staff within PMCF and there was evidence that many of the staff attending the event had contributed
to the cost via salary deductions, but not all staff made a contribution.
86. Furthermore, no contributions had been obtained from staff for Christmas parties held in previous
years, which were held in Manchester and therefore also incurred an overnight stay.


The report also found there was no real oversight from either WAG or the Plas Madoc Communities First board, who were responsible for the limited company. Despite receiving more than £3.5m of public money over seven years, it appears the board members - who include the local councillor Paul Blackwell as well as other prominent members of the community - did little to ensure that money was spent properly.

At a time when public money is tight and getting tighter, misusing it on such a scale is a scandal. The involvement of the police appears inevitable but who will now police those who were meant to guard the public purse? The current board of Plas Madoc Communities First must be replaced and the community must take ownership of this failing flagship so they decide how and where the remaining money is spent for the good of that community.

UPDATE: The report makes reference to a whistleblower. Without her coming forward and putting up with threats, innuendo and abuse from a range of people and organisations this report would never have been written.

Monday, 15 March 2010

A dry Limerick for Magners League derby!

An almighty row has broken out between publicans in Limerick and the Catholic Church because the much awaited Munster versus Leinster Magners League game is due to be played on Friday 2nd April which is Good Friday, a holy daily in Ireland when all the pubs are shut. The publicans in Limerick are seeking a special dispensation from the Garda to open on the sacred day. I suppose you can see their point when the day is supposedly worth 5 million Euros to the local economy. On the other hand why not change it to another day, but Sky, Setanta and ESPN probably carry more weight in the secularism of the modern Irish state than the Catholic Church. For more check out the Irish Independent.

Recession bites!

The recession isn't over yet, either in Ireland or in Wales. That's the conclusion of my visit to Dublin this weekend, drawing on a comparison with a visit there two years ago. On our arrival at Dublin International Airport two years ago we were met with chaotic scenes with taxis and buses barely able to cope with the influx of Welsh fans. It couldn't be more different this year with taxis aplenty. Whilst Grafton Street was full of Welsh fans two years ago and you couldn't go ten yards without meeting someone you knew, this year there were far fewer and there were fewer still that I knew. It was the same situation with tickets, it was a lot easier to get tickets than it was in the past and the green was far more prominent in Croke Park than the red. Whilst there were still plenty of buskers around the city there was a noticeable increase in beggars. Other indications that Ireland is in a deep recession is the fact that prices had actually gone down over the last 2 years and my perception was that Dublin was no more expensive than it was two years ago despite the fact that the pound had collapsed against the euro. No doubt the collapse of the pound against the euro and the generally recessionary feel deterred many thousands of Welsh fans from travelling. So whatever the Office of National Statistics say about growth, take it with a pinch of salt, the reality is quite different for a lot of people.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Labour's broken links with the unions


This week's two-day strike by PCS civil service workers was notable for the solidarity on the picket lines. In Wrecsam, nearly 1,000 workers in the Jobcentre, courts and tax office went on strike and there were lively pickets attended by other trade unionists.
Plaid's Janet Ryder AM, myself and Arfon Jones got a warm welcome (it may have been something to do with the bacon butties) but it was noticeable that no Labour politician bothered to attend one of the biggest strikes locally for years. Of course the PCS is not affiliated to the Labour Party and has been openly critical of the UK Labour government's programme of job cuts in recent years. Other unions such as the Fire Brigades Union, the RMT railworkers' union and my own union, the NUJ, are also not affiliated to Labour. More recently the posties' union - the CWU - has distanced itself from Labour because of its threat to privatise the Royal Mail.
This coalition of unions are becoming more willing to criticise Labour because they see them for what they are, indistinguishable from the Tories. Politicians are openly talking about "savage job cuts" regardless of which one wins the General Election. Little wonder that the most active and campaigning unions are breaking their links with Labour.

Police accused of failures over anti-social behaviour

The Chief Inspector of Constabulary Dennis O'Connor has published inspection "report cards" on the 43 Police Forces where he strongly criticises Police Forces for their responses to complaints of anti social behaviour. The report measures the forces across three headings, local policing, protection from harm and confidence. Forces are then graded Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor. The results are not promising with only 4 forces getting Good across the board and one force (Nottinghamshire) getting Poor across the board. Out of a total of 129 grades awarded only 4 were Excellent. The vast majority of grades were Fair and North Wales Police was graded Fair across the Board. In comparison the other 3 forces in Wales got one area graded as Good.

Personally I don't think this is good enough and this is the second inspection in 12 months where North Wales Police hasn't come up to the mark, the first occasion was the Policing Pledge inspection. The President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde in explaining away this report said,
The problem could only be fully solved with better links between organisations.
"The more we engage with partners, the more we have long-term solutions which actually work,"

What Sir Hugh says makes sense, but what he doesn't say is that it has been a statutory requirement under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, for partners to work together to reduce crime and disorder through the establishment of Community Safety Partnerships. The Community Safety Partnership in Wrecsam has anti social behaviour as an improvement priority with a target of reducing anti social behaviour by 6% and the latest report shows that the partnership is on track to achieve that target. I follow the work of the partnership in Wrecsam closely and they paint a very rosy picture of their achievements in meeting their targets and of the work they do but this report by Denis O'Connor would tend to cast some doubt on the partnership's success.

Its about time Community Safety Partnership's were inspected by the Inspectorate of Constabulary. We might then get a truer picture of the value and effectiveness of the Community Safety Partnership.

Spending freeze for Communities First projects?

It seems that Carl Sergeant, the Assembly Minister with responsibility for Communities First, is about to deliver a hammer blow to the projects across Wales.
Judging by this "leak", all new spending in Communities First areas will be frozen as a result of financial mismanagement and worse at Plas Madoc. A report by the minister is imminent and is expected to be damning regarding the specific affairs of Plas Madoc.
A total spending freeze on all new schemes will have serious implications in Caia Park, Gwenfro and Hightown Community First projects. These are all deprived areas where there is much work to be done.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Why are Wrecsam tenants subsidising London councils?

London councils are being subsidised through the Treasury clawing money from Welsh council tenants.

The Housing Revenue subsidy system was originally designed to prevent council housing accounts making a loss but has now spiralled into a money-making machine for the UK Treasury, which then pays out surpluses to 50 councils, all but one of which is situated in England.

Hackney got over £48 million in 2009, Islington received £58 million and Manchester got £34 million while only one out of 18 councils in Wales were paid - Merthyr got £293,000.

Wrecsam Council, by contrast, lost £11.2m from its housing revenue account. That £11.2m is a third of all the money Wrecsam Council has to spend on housing in the borough. This amount could easily pay for repairs and renovations to get our housing up to a decent standard for tenants.

The system is currently being reviewed by deputy housing minister Jocelyn Davies but, let's be clear, this is a UK fiddle and we have no say in the Treasury's decision.

Scottish local authorities are not part of this subsidy regime but Welsh councils pay nearly £100m to the Treasury, which in turn is paid to various boroughs in London and other metropolitan areas in England.

At a time when some Wrecsam councillors want to push for another vote on stock transfer, we must push for an urgent reform of this disgraceful situation.

More trouble for Tories in Clwyd West

So another of the Aberconwy Tories has defected, this time it's Cllr Dave Holland from Abergele which is in the Clwyd West constituency. The details surrounding Councillor Holland's move is outlined on Councillor Jason Weyman's blog.
I wonder what will be next?

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Not a Good Week for Scottish Labour!

The Herald Scotland has today put together the drip, drip, of information on the fall of Stephen Purcell, Labour Leader of one of the largest local authorities in the country, Glasgow City Council. There is no doubt the fall has been a pretty spectacular fall from grace for someone who has been touted as a future First Minister. His fall from grace is surrounded by rumours of substance misuse and mixing with some rather tasty villains who seemed to have come to the notice of the Scottish Crime Squad. We can only guess at the political fallout and eagerly await the next Scottish opinion polls. Can't see many Councillors in Glasgow wanting to take on the 'poisoned chalice' that seems to be the City's leadership now.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Times are changing at North Wales Police Authority.

I have long been critical of the North Wales Police Authority of being weak and ineffective in their challenge of Chief Police Officers particularly in holding Richard Brunstrom accountable for the things he said and did.

It does now appear that some members of the Authority are taking it upon themselves to force through changes and become far more robust and challenging of Chief Officers as this Daily Post report testifies. Congratulations to Cllr Charles Wyn Jones for his scrutiny of performance data and his ability to get the Deputy Chief Constable to admit that some of the statistics they presented were in fact 'misleading.' What a statement to make!

I have responded to the Daily Post article with the following letter:
Dear Editor,

It was pleasing to read today's Daily Post (Talking Rubbish, March 6), and Councillor Charles Wyn Jones is to be congratulated on what was a robust challenge to statistics produced by North Wales Police. I very much hope that with the imminent and welcoming change at the top of the Police Authority,that other members will follow Councillor Jones's lead in representing the public interest by scrutinising Police activities in far greater depth than has been the case in the past.

Yours sincerely


There are also other major changes going on at the Authority with the Chairman Ian Roberts standing down in May following the decision of the Authority that chairing will be for a period of 4 years. It's not clear whether Ian Roberts will remain as a member of the Police Authority or whether he will be required to stand down as a condition of him being nominated as the Deputy Mayor of Wrecsam.

Also retiring is the Clerk or Chief Executive, Kelvin Dent and it is rumoured that the son of a prominent Welsh Labour MP has been appointed to this role.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Private Eye on the IPC boss

Private Eye has succeeded in exposing the financial interests of the man who will head the Infrastructure Planning Commission, a body that will decide on key planning decisions in Wales:

The man in charge of deciding how £400 bn will be spent in infrastructure investment over the next decade holds shares in many of the energy companies that will benefit from his decisions, the Eye can reveal.

The Governments new Infrastructure Planning Commission is meant to be an objective arbiter over spending on energy security and low carbon power generation, and will take over from local authorities planning decisions on projects of 'national significance', many of them highly controversial.

Its chief executive is John Saunders, an obscure banker who has no experience in planning but comes direct from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), following a stint licensing bouncers at the Security Industry Association.

Those likely to be affected by the turbines and power stations to come will at least hope Saunders' commission makes its decisions impartially and transparently. So it is not reassuring that it recently refused to release details of its commissioners' financial interests, a spokesman telling the Eye that it was "personal information protected by the data protection act".

This was always nonsense , and the Eye has now forced a detailed response from the commission using freedom of information laws. The details perhaps make the reason for the initial secrecy clearer. Saunders has declared shareholdings in the following companies:

National Grid, National Power, Powergen (now owned by E.on), Innogy and Northern Ireland Electric.

Strangely, most of these have big projects for which they are seeking approval from the IPC. Innogy already has two wind farm proposals before the commission;National Grid has three transmission projects and National Power (now RWE nPower) has three proposals including a gas-fired power station - all this before the commission was due to start accepting applications from 1 March.

Saunders' declaration of his interests suggest he's not too bothered about the financial incentive he has to wave the companies' applications. " A decision whether or not to sell or to pass ownership to a blind trust is currently being taken," he declares. So that's all right then.

Albert Owen and the IPC

As was reported in the Daily Post, the first of many large infrastructure projects to be decided upon by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) will be on Ynys Mon; Wylfa B and the Offshore Windfarm. There is a general agreement that this unelected quango will take decision making away from local authorities and limit consultation with local people.

Perhaps the people of Ynys Mon would like to know that their esteemed MP, Albert Owen voted AYE on the third reading of the Planning Act 2008, which created the IPC. The vote took place on the 25th June 2008 with the Government winning the vote 280 to 198. There was total opposition to the bill by the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, but 6 rebel Labour MP's voted against their government, this included one Welsh Labour MP, Paul Flynn.

I very much hope that the people of Ynys Mon remember where Albert Owen's loyalty really lies when he's on the campaign trail preaching on local issues.

Needless to say that our ultra loyal Brownite/Blairite MP, Ian Lucas also voted with his government and against the public interest on this issue.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Infrastructure Planning Commission (Part 3)

Please sign the following e-petition to the Prime Minister:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to change the jurisdiction of the Infrastructure Planning Commission so as not to include Wales because planning issues in Wales are a devolved issue and the imposition of the IPC on the Welsh Assembly Government subverts the normal planning process in Wales.

Details:
A new unelected public body has been slammed for the undemocratic way it dictates key areas of Welsh life such as new nuclear power stations, windfarms and reservoirs. The new Infrastructure Planning Commission set up by the UK Government is "a body blow for democracy in Wales"

The new commission will be able to completely bypass the local planning process and locate developments where it sees fit. Despite the fact that half the projects currently under consideration are located in Wales, there is no Welsh representation on the commission and the Assembly has no say in its decisions.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

236 houses for old colliery site

Last night's planning committee voted for 236 houses to be built on the former Gatewen Colliery site outside New Broughton. Both Plaid Cymru councillors on the committee - Carrie Harper and Marc Jones - voted against. Here's why.

The huge estate had been granted outline planning permission back in 2003, when developers ruled and Wrecsam was in thrall to a massive building spree and rapid housing inflation.

Detailed plans for 215 houses in 2006 were refused on the grounds of too much traffic for a relatively poor B-road, yet a plan that involves MORE housing has been approved. The officers' logic is that the new scheme will provide a bus stop and a cycleway and this will help reduce car use.

Despite this, the plan offered to limit the building schedule to six a month on the grounds that the village couldn't cope with such a large development. What happens when the development is completed is not clear.

There was also concern about the affordable housing - this was just 20% rather than the usual 25% threshold and some of that was not being built to the approved standard. This echoes problems on the new estate in Brymbo, where the affordable housing was not built to a high enough standard and no housing association would take them on as a result. It also begs the question as to why we have a standard if we do not insist on developers meeting it. With that in mind, Cllr Hugh Jones successfully moved an amendment to ensure that all the affordable homes were to the DQR standard.

Some housing on the site was also deficient in terms of minimum separation distances - we were not told if these were the affordable homes on the site.

The developer opposed the planned contribution to educate the children who will live on this estate. This amounts to £487,000 towards primary education, which will not build a new school in an area that already has pressures on many of its primary schools.

There's no doubt that, as the local Cllr Alan Edwards made clear, something needs to be done on the old colliery site. But the scale of this estate is out of all proportion to local need and that's why we objected.

FOOTNOTE: It was curious to hear the developer's agent speak briefly in Welsh at the start of the meeting - a first perhaps for the planning committee? I wonder why JS Bloor (Wilmslow) Ltd chose to do that...

Infrastructure Planning Commission.

On the 8th December 2009, the Plaid Cymru group produced a Press Release about the dangers to democracy of a new quango called the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC)which will make decisions on,
"nationally significant infrastructure projects” across Wales and England. The commission has no jurisdiction in Scotland or Northern Ireland."

To read the whole Press Release go here. Our press release did not make the Daily Post pages at that time.

Today the Daily Post have published an article stating that the IPC have been given powers to 'fast track' two major infrastructure projects on Ynys Mon, the Wylfa B and the offshore windfarm.

The Daily Post believe that the use of the IPC to decide on planning matters in Wales is so significant that they have published a scathing criticism of the quango which is reproduced below:

Unelected quango is an alarming development.

THE creation of a faceless, unelected quango called the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) to push through highly contentious planning decisions on such matters as nuclear power stations and windfarms is as worrying as it is undemocratic.

This should be seen for what it is – a naked attempt by a Government determined to implement its alternative energy programme speedily by subverting the normal planning process.

Labour are seeking to shoehorn in windfarm developments throughout mainland Britain and our territorial waters regardless of local opposition. That is its democratic right – but it is, or should be, the right of local people to protest at such plans, have their voices heard and, where their local authority agrees with them, to win the day.

How different it will all be in the future when huge developments will be rubber stamped by this quango which will, of course, be based in England. This makes its creation particularly sensitive and controversial here in Wales.

But the key point is that it will deprive every corner of the UK the right to make vital decisions on planning matters of huge importance locally. Inevitably, areas of scenic natural beauty, such as this region, will be more prone to windfarm applications which need to be sited in upland, rural areas.

Among the matters the new quango is set to rule on will be the future of Wylfa B nuclear power station and the 858 square mile windfarm zone planned off the Anglesey coast. These projects, however, are popular with local people desperate for new jobs and investment.

An efficient, unelected quango keen on such developments will be sure to get things off the ground sooner. That would be good news for the Isle of Anglesey and amounts, one might say, to the end justifying the means in these cases.

As far as hard-hit Anglesey is concerned, no-one wishes to see these projects unnecessarily delayed if they have the backing of local people and politicians. But as the Tories point out, allowing far-off officials to make these decisions is stripping away power from elected politicians.

There will no doubt be plenty of alternative developments proposed in North Wales or off our coast which many local people will bitterly oppose. In future, their views will command scant attention and that is unacceptable.

The Daily Post are quite right in their comments albeit three months late in raising this important issue and in their support I wrote the following letter:
Dear Editor,

I quite agree with your Opinion (Unelected quango is an alarming development, Post, March 2nd), the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) is exactly that, an unelected quango and is a ‘body blow to democracy in Wales.’ In fact Plaid Cymru in Wrecsam issued a press release to the Daily Post as far back as the 8th December 2009, about the IPC, where I said "It seems devolution is something that happens to other countries. This is another disturbing example of how Wales, unlike Scotland or Northern Ireland, is unable to make decisions on key issues such as energy and other major planning issues. Clearly we in Wales cannot be trusted to make decisions around our own natural resources. This is just another expensive Quango which excuses ministers from making difficult and unpopular decisions.”

This is yet another example of why we the people of Wales should vote YES in the referendum this year. We cannot allow unelected quangos appointed by Westminster Ministers like John Healey to make important infrastructure decisions without the consent of the democratically elected government of Wales. What is a further disgrace is that Welsh Labour MP’s have allowed their government in Westminster to do this.

I have also written to Lee Robinson one of Wrecsam's Strategic Directors and Lawrence Isted the Chief Planning Officer seeking information on the IPC and asking whether they will make the Planning decisions on the prison that is likely to come to North Wales, I'm still awaiting a reply!