Friday, 28 December 2012

Arrowe Park maternity unit "not viable" without Welsh babies

The decision to move neonatal intensive care from hospitals in North Wales to Arrowe Park on the Wirral was always one of the more absurd elements of the NHS changes being proposed by Betsi Cadwaladr health board.
 It is now backfiring in spectacular fashion. Not only has there been a huge backlash among the public, but the failings of Arrowe Park have been mercilessly exposed by Plaid Cymru.
 Now comes a damning internal letter from the nurse in charge of Arrowe Park's maternity services, in which she says:

• The service being offered by Arrowe Park is below standard
• The unit is losing "customers" to other units because of this
• The unit is not viable with fewer than 3000 births per year.

 The local newspaper says:
"A four-page letter which had been sent to all midwives, medical and nursing staff by Linda Birch, lead nurse at Arrowe Park Hospital’s women and children's division, and raises deep concerns of “worrying trends” in care given to maternity patients.
The letter states: "The standard of care we are giving to our patients is not good enough and is deteriorating."
Among issues raised are concerns over record-keeping, "rude" staff, lack of privacy and dignity for patients, storage of medication and poor communications between patients and midwives.
A graph contained in the document shows the number of patients has fallen from 300 bookings per month in January, 2011, to 245 a month – representing fewer than 3,000 births per year.
The letter discloses the unit is losing patients to other maternity services providers "because we are rude to them, we are not giving them what they need".
And, shockingly, it warns: "At less than 3,000 births, our unit is not financially viable."
The hospital is now facing an independent inquiry due to report back in 2013.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for North Wales, has led the campaign to retain neonatal services in North Wales. He said:

"News of poor standards of care at the Arrowe Park maternity unit will not bring any comfort to people in North Wales who could be facing the long trip there if Betsi Cadwaladr's board presses ahead with its plans.
 "The hospital's own managers admit that the unit isn't up to standard in terms of care and it makes the decision by managers here in North Wales to move neonatal intensive care there even more questionable. That decision will be made in January and I think now is the time for the board to take a step back, reconsider the evidence and maintain neonatal intensive care here in the North.
 "To move services to a unit that its own manager admits is not viable and is failing would be a dereliction of duty. As it is, I think we have to ask what checks Betsi Cadwaladr made of Arrowe Park before opting for this, rather than listening to the clinical advice.
 "We have an excellent and proven Special Care Baby Unit service here in Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor hospitals. Moving the neonatal intensive care element to Arrowe Park must now be abandoned so that we can continue to have an excellent service within the region."

 The big question is whether Betsi Cadwaladr management conducted a proper investigation into whether Arrowe Park was fit for purpose before making their recommendations. It is becoming apparent that Arrowe Park's financial needs (it proposes to charge £1240 a day for the neonatal cases from Wales - about £1.1m a year) take precedence over the clinical needs of newborn babies.

 • A further twist in the tail is that Betsi Cadwaladr's director of nursing Jill Galvani - who as recently as October 1 was attending consultation meetings to defend the move to Arrowe Park - has now been unveiled as the new director of nursing for the Wirral University Health Trust. This is the Trust that runs Arrowe Park.  

Monday, 24 December 2012

Affordable homes policy in crisis

Wrecsam Council's affordable homes policy is in crisis.
 At the council's next planning committee, Bloor Homes, developers at the Gatewen housing estate, will propose that the proportion of affordable homes on the 236-house estate is reduced from 20% to just 5%.
 None will be for rent, they will all be 85% of the open market value with a housing association picking up the remaining 15%.
 We've reported on this development time and time again because they have consistently tried to undermine the affordable housing requirement - currently 25% under the local Unitary Development Plan.
 At a time when Cheshire West and Chester Council is aiming for 40% affordable housing in its new build, Wrecsam is opening the doors to developers who will be building more unaffordable housing estates.
Plaid councillor Arfon Jones said: "I think it's despicable that greedy developers are determined to undermine the democratic decision of Wrecsam Councillors by reducing the proportion of affordable homes on what is a massive housing estate to just 5%. If Cheshire West and Chester can include a figure of 40% affordability in their plans, then Wrecsam Planning Committee needs to get real and refuse this attempt to move the goalposts."
 Officers are recommending approval on the basis that the estate is not viable if they build 20% affordable housing. Councillors should insist on seeing the details of that viability study - if accepted it will set a precedent for every large housing developer to reduce its affordable housing quota to whatever it sees fit.

UPDATE: Bloor Homes is one of the UK's largest privately owned housing developers and its owner, John Bloor, was 12th in the Sunday Times Rich List for 2012. His fortune is estimated to be £480 million.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Growing up with the idea of an independent Wales

I grew up in a time when Wales didn't want to run its own affairs. I was 17 and just too young to vote in the 1979 referendum that rejected watered-down devolution decisively.

Nothing stays the same and now my eldest son is 16 and, like almost any teenager, only knows of a Wales with its own government and a Senedd, no matter how shackled and timid. He doesn't remember the dark days of direct rule.

 This new generation are growing up with the idea of greater confidence in their country's ability to run its own affairs. The older generations indulged in that Celtic cringe and we all too often slid back into blaming someone else for our woes. Enough of that.

 We need a positive reason to have the confidence to stand up. Scotland is leading the way here - the first leader of an independent Scotland is likely to be a young working-class woman from Glasgow who should have been a natural Labourite but saw through the sterile statism and inherent conservatism of that ideology. So many parallels with our own party's development in recent months under Leanne Wood.

 Gerry Hassan's perceptive piece is about how Nicola Sturgeon is making the case for an independent Scotland more relevant to people like herself. Our aim of an independent Wales also has to become more relevant - essential even - as we peer into this economic black hole created by bankers and politicians, who in turn are punishing the poor and disabled.

 We certainly can't wait for the feeble government currently lurking in Cardiff Bay to deliver an alternative to austerity. They're happy to keep Wales voting Labour until the next UK election. That's their real prize - regaining power in London rather than standing up for a Welsh alternative.

 There is a generational shift taking place as these teenagers grow up with that idea firmly planted. We've come a long way since 1979...

Ymunwch â'r chwyldro cydweithredol

Mae menter gydweithredol Saith Seren Wrecsam ar drothwy cyfnod cyffrous arall wrth i’r gwaith adeiladu fyny grisiau ddod i ben.
 Er mwyn talu am y gwaith, mae’r fenter yn cynnig cyfle i bobl ddod yn aelodau drwy fuddsoddi rhwng £100 ac £20,000 mewn cyfranddaliadau yn y fenter. Mae Saith Seren wedi agor fel tafarn a bwyty ers 11 mis ac ar fin ehangu fyny grisiau er mwyn cynnig swyddfeydd i fudiadau sy’n hyrwyddo ac yn dysgu’r Gymraeg, dosbarthiadau i ddysgwyr Cymraeg a stafelloedd gyfarfod i’r gymuned gyfan.
Mae’r gefnogaeth gan y gymuned leol ac o bob rhan o Gymru wedi bod yn hanfodol hyd yma.
 Dydan ni heb dderbyn yr un geiniog o arian cyhoeddus i’r fenter ac felly mae pob llwyddiant yn ddibynnol ar haelioni ein aelodau. Mawr yw ein diolch i’r rhai a fentrodd ar y cychwyn cyntaf a gobeithiwn y gallwn ddenu’r un faint o ddiddordeb a buddsoddiad gyda’r ail gynnig yma.
Dyma’ch cyfle chi i fentro er mwyn gwneud rhywbeth ymarferol i normaleiddio’r iaith Gymraeg mewn tre’ prin 10 milltir o’r ffin ond sydd â 1,000 o oedolion yn dysgu’r iaith mewn amryw ddosbarthiadau ac ysgol Gymraeg newydd Gwersyllt yn agor fis Medi nesaf oherwydd y galw cynnyddol am addysg ddwyieithog.
 Gallwch brynu’r cyfranddaliadau fel anrheg Nadolig hyd yn oed!
Os ydych chi am fod yn aelod o’r fenter unigryw yma, ewch i neu cysylltwch a er mwyn cael y ffurflen angenrheidiol. Neu gallwch ffonio 07747 792 441 neu ysgrifennu at Saith Seren, 18 Stryt Gaer, Wrecsam, LL13 8BG.

Join the cooperative revolution

Saith Seren’s cooperative adventure is about to take another exciting turn as building work on the first floor of Wrexham’s only community-owned pub and Welsh Centre comes to an end.
In order to pay for the work, the cooperative is offering another chance for people to become members by investing between £100 and £20,000 in shares in the venture. The Seven Stars opened as a pub and restaurant 11 months ago and is about to expand upstairs. We will be able to rent out offices to organisations that promote and teach the Welsh, Welsh learners’ classes and meeting rooms for the whole community. We have also restored and re-opened an important part of Wrexham’s heritage, a wonderful listed building that had lain idle for more than a year.
The support from the local community and from every part of Wales has been crucial so far. We have not received a penny of grant funding towards the enterprise and therefore all our success depends on the goodwill of our members and our own efforts. We are very grateful to those who ventured from the outset and we hope that we can attract as much interest and investment with our second offer.
This is your chance to do something practical to help build our community cooperative and normalise the language in a town where 1,000 adults are learning the language in various classes. In addition, thousands of people are sending their children to local Welsh schools  the latest opens in Gwersyllt next September due to the increasing demand for bilingual education.
 You can even buy the shares as a Christmas present!
If you want to be a member of this unique initiative, please visit or contact to obtain the necessary form. Or you can call 07747 792 441 or write to Saith Seren, 18 Stryt Gaer, Wrecsam, LL13 8BG.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Darren Millar cheering on Labour!

We in Plaid Cymru have said it a million times, there is not a blind bit of difference between the British Unionist parties...Vote Labour get Tory or vice versa. They have now reached the stage that they don't even hide the fact that they are identical. The latest example is that of Tory AM Darren Millar openly praising the Scottish Labour leader Johnann Lamont:
Johann Lamont’s Cuts Commission has attracted yet more support from the Tories today after a Senior Welsh Conservative heaped praise on her for supporting “our policies.
Tory AM Darren Millar said that “yet again Johann Lamont has shown her Welsh colleagues the way forward” in abandoning their support for free prescriptions.
This is not the first time that the Tories have praised Johann Lamont after she abandoned Labour’s commitment to universal free provision of a number of vital services – some of which were key manifesto commitments she was elected upon little over a year ago.
Earlier this year Ruth Davidson said that in launching her attack on these services, Ms Lamont was moving Labour “onto Tory ground.”
Commenting, SNP MSP Mark McDonald – who sits on the Health and Sport Committee – said:
“When the Tories become the biggest cheerleaders for your health policies, it is surely time to stop and think, but Johann Lamont seems determined to press on ahead with her cuts commission.
“Darren Millar’s comments come hot on the heels after Ruth Davidson embraced Labour’s conversion to Tory policy
.“The fact is that before the SNP abolished them, there were 600,000 families on incomes of as little as £16,000 who were liable for prescription charges – a tax on the sick.
.“The more you look at them, the more alike the anti-independence parties appear to be - these startling comments from yet another Tory remind us that the only a yes vote in 2014 can safeguard the achievements of the Scottish Parliament.”

Monday, 3 December 2012

Too little, too late!

Too little, too late surely must be our response to the promises made by our weak and unimpressive Environment minister John Griffiths following last week's floods. Mr Griffiths was interviewed by Huw Edwards on the new flagship Wales Report which was then reported by BBC Wales where he said that:
"We now have a system in place that wherever housing is proposed in flood risk areas it has to be referred to the Welsh government to consider whether it needs to be called in, so we now take a much more strong line to make sure that only appropriate development takes place."
Since when have we had this process of calling in planning applications on flood plains? Is it a typical Welsh Government knee jerk reaction to crisis or is it something that was intended to be included all along in this magical new 'Planning Bill' that "We" are working on?

This begs the question of who are "We"? In the article John Griffiths goes on to say, "There's a much more hands-on approach from Welsh government," to which we the cynics comment, "You don't say."

 Our cynicism arises out of the term "We"! There is no "We" it is in fact "They" of the Planning Inspectorate who even though planning is devolved do not gain their considerable authority from the Welsh Government but rather from the Westminster Government. You now have the one and only reason why Planning Policy in Wales is such an unholy mess with unelected bureaucrats from Westminster being able to strike out Welsh Local Development Plans at a whim and imposing their own housing figures which unsurprisingly seem to meet the aspirations of developers.

We can only speculate what the Planning Inspector would have done on appeal had Denbighshire Planning Committee refused the Glasdir development in Rhuthun on the basis it was on a flood plain, but we know in our hearts they would have given it the go ahead.

What we need is a new planning system in Wales that has the needs of the people of Wales at its heart and not one that reacts to the whims of developers and Westminster politicians like Nick Boles.

We need an Environment Minister with balls!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Scottish radical independence convention

This declaration was read out at the Radical Independence Conference by Pat Kane (ex-Hue and Cry). It attracted more than 800 people over the weekend:


We call for independence for the Scottish people.

No responsibility more defines a generation than its responsibility to leave a legacy of hope and possibility. Our generation has a historical opportunity to leave such a legacy. It is for us to choose not a government but a future.

We are offered two. One warns us not to risk the attempt to be a better society, one asks us to hope we can be.

Britain is the fourth most unequal country in the developed world. It has become two nations, one for the rich and one for the rest. The campaign against independence does not invite us into its Britain of wealth and privilege. It expects us to endure our Britain of austerity and exploitation.

They want us to vote No to independence because they want us to vote Yes to inequality, Yes to poverty, Yes to corporate greed. They want us to know our place, not to get ideas above our station. They do not even offer to try to be better.

They are satisfied with this Divided Kingdom. We are not. They believe their first duty is to protect wealth. We disagree. A country that believes there are things more important than the fate of its people has failed.

We believe the success of a country comes from the hard work and commitment of all. We believe that a good country is one in which all share fairly the success of good times and all share fairly the burdens of bad times. We believe that the people who run a country should reflect and represent the people of that country. We believe Scotland belongs to us all and that neither this land nor its people should be exploited only for the profit of a few.

This is what the people of Scotland believe too. At election after election Scots have used the ballot box as a loudhailer to ask for a better country. But at every turn the path from here to that better country has been blocked by the alliance of wealthy people who run British for their own benefit. The more Scots have voted for justice the less just Britain has become. Instead we have corrupt wars, a corrupt media, corrupt bankers, corrupt corporations, corrupt politicians.

But a path to a better Scotland is open once more, one that does not require us to ask the permission of those who do not want us to reach our destination. In an independent Scotland the only thing holding us back will be ourselves.

This is not a campaign for independence but a campaign for a better Scotland which we believe can only begin with independence. We are tired of complaining about Britain. It is time to talk about what Scotland can be.

Scotland can be a participative democracy. Where no-one's view is worth more because they have money. Where financial interests don't drown out the voices of the people. Where decision-making belongs to the many and not just an elite. Where communities are not told what they will be given but decide what they need. Where our institutions are reformed to include the people in their governance. Where the media is balanced, education creates active citizens and information is free to all.
Scotland can be a society of equality. Where poverty is not accepted. Where pay gaps are small and poverty wages are ended. Where tax redistributes wealth. Where no human attribute is a justification for discrimination and prejudice. Where human rights are universal.
Scotland can be a just economy. Where profit never justifies damaging people and the environment. Where essential industries are owned by all and not exploited by the few. Where workers have the right to fair treatment and to defend themselves. Where industrial democracy makes better businesses. Where investment is for development, not for speculation.
Scotland can be a great welfare state. Where the social contract is not between the state and the people but between the people themselves. Where from cradle to grave society cares for all regardless. Where delivering more and better social services is the national priority, not austerity. Where the government of the people is never used to create private wealth.
Scotland can be a good neighbour. Where we seek to work with nations around the world to resolve global inequality, climate change and conflict. Where we never join international alliances for exploitation and war. Where we work to reform and democratise multinational institutions. Where we see our deeds, our national culture and our values as a message of hope.
Scotland can be a moral nation. Where mutuality, cooperation and fellowship define our relationships. Where we are good stewards of our country and hand it on to the next generation in a better state than we inherit it. Where our values are not dominated by greed, selfishness and disregard for others but by patience, generosity, creativity, peacefulness and a determination to be better.

This is a Scotland which British politics has robbed from the Scottish people. We want it back.

Our future is unknown. Good. Only in uncertainty can hope and possibility prosper. We choose the chance to fight for a better Scotland; we reject the offer to endure more of the same indefinitely.

We are socialists, feminists, trade unionists, greens. We are from the peace movement, from anti-poverty campaigns, from anti-racists groups. We are community activists, civil liberty campaigners, the equalities movement and more.

We are also creatives, artists, entrepreneurs and innovators who put our enterprise at the service of society, and use markets, audiences and our skills pragmatically to that end!

We are the Radical Independence Campaign, the start of a movement to win back Scotland for its people, to offer them the country they deserve.

A previous generation, in 1979, had a chance to offer a legacy of hope and possibility to the next generation. They failed, Thatcher took power, Scotland suffered.

We cannot afford to fail this time. Scotland cannot afford us to fail.

It is time for our generation to reject fear and choose hope. Our hope begins with independence. For the sake of the Scottish people

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Adverse Consequences of Debt.

The Fraser of Allander Institute have recently published a study into the economic benefit of the Citizens Advice Service in Scotland:
The report outlines that the Citizens Advice Service contribute a total benefit to the common good in Scotland of £166.2 million. This a massive return on the investment of around £21 million which is currently spent on running the service across Scotland. The contribution to the common good includes:
  • Client financial income of £63 million which leads to a further £27.4 million in wages and 1,246 jobs supported by this income
  • Savings to the taxpayer of £42.7 million (£14.5m in health care costs, £12.9m in JSA savings, and £15.3m in homlessness prevention)
  • Contribution to economic growth of £19.5m (as a result of clients not losing their job and remaining in productive employment)
  • Employment and wages supported by CAS/CAB as employers and purchasers of services and goods which support a total of 1,092 jobs and £13.6m wages in Scotland
The £63m figure in income is gained direct for clients and is therefore income that will be going directly into the pockets and purses of people across Scotland who then spend that money in their local communities on goods and services.
What struck me when reading this report was the % of clients to Citizens Advice who experienced the following adverse consequences as a result of having a debt problem

  • Physical Ill-health                  6.1%
  • Stress Related Illness            29.6%
  • Relationship Breakdown       3.8%
  • Personal Violence                 0.4%
  • Property Damage                 1.2%
  • Had to move house               0.4%
  • Loss of Employment              0.4%
  • Loss of income                      11.6%
  • Loss of confidence                 13.4%
That is a lot of lives which could be a lot more productive if they didn't have an unmanageable debt burden hanging round their necks.

The Rolling Jubilee.

The Rolling Jubilee is yet another innovative project from the Occupy Wall Street movement and it aims to buy up 'toxic debt' (or debt that hasn't a hope of being repaid) and cancelling the same. Most toxic debt can be bought for pennies in the pound as the Rolling Jubilee project found:
Individuals or companies can buy distressed debt from lenders at knock-down prices if it the borrower is in default or behind with payments and are then free to do with it as they see fit, including cancelling it free of charge.

As a test run the group spent $500 on distressed debt, buying $14,000 worth of outstanding loans and pardoning the debtors. They are now looking to expand their experiment nationwide and are asking people to donate money to the cause.
This shows that  £1 can buy 28 times that amount of toxic debt.

When we are looking at improving economic activity and prosperity in Wales shouldn't the reduction of debt be one of the economic levers that we should be using to that end?

The Daily Post reported in September of this year on the crippling level of debt in North Wales and the success of advice agencies in cancelling out nearly a £100 million of debt through Debt Relief Orders and Bankruptcy. Looking at this another way, a £4 million investment across North Wales would have served the same purpose in cancelling out this level of debt.

Also not all debt are suitably resolved by Debt Relief Order or Bankruptcy but are rather smaller debts like a £1000 on a credit card is a big burden for an out of work family whilst it would be manageable for other families.

Another problem that debtors across the country will find in future is that welfare advice agencies will no longer have funding to represent debtors in court as the Community Legal Services budget is decimated by government cuts.

Cancelling of toxic debt for our most impoverished residents must be a priority and brings with it immeasurable benefits such as better health and wellbeing (particularly mental health), less stress within families and of course more disposable income for spending in the local economy.

This suggestion is not without its problems and controls will be necessary to ensure that families that benefit to do not return to a spiral of debt.

Imagine if 22 Local Authorities invested half a million pounds in a one off fund to buy up toxic debt then there is a potential of £300 million worth of debt that could be written off, that would make a huge difference to the most impoverished and debt ridden families in Wales and is one answer to the impact of welfare reform.

Whether Local Authorities can use their finances for such a project is another question?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Wrecsam - Wales's co-op capital

Yesterday's launch of the Wales Cooperative Centre's report on community cooperatives attracted a great crowd to Saith Seren.

The only cooperative pub in the area is also featured on the front page of the Cooperative Enterprise Hub's annual review.
 But talking to many of the people attending, it struck me how far Wrecsam has come in terms of cooperatives and social enterprises.
 The Wrexham Supporters' Trust is, with 2500 members and growing, the grand-daddy of local cooperatives. It was ably represented by board members Tom Stamford and Gavin Jones, who gave a brief but compelling account of the WST's history in successfully trying to wrestle control of the third oldest football club in the world away from the sharks and vultures.
 There's also some great work done by the various social enterprises and cooperatives under the Caia Park Partnership umbrella and it was good to see Alison Hill representing them.
 North Wales Credit Union, which has an office in King Street and a membership in the thousands, was also present. As well as a savings facility, it has the ability to finance individual loans and could be the basis for a far more pro-active approach to developing cooperatives.
 Equally interesting was the presence of people interested in setting up cooperatives to create work and maintain services in the area. We'll be hearing more about this shortly.
 Other organisations such as Age Concern, @67 Communications (which has launched the Wrexham Community Choir) and the Wales Cooperative Centre's own digital inclusion team were also present, hinting that there is the potential for a network of local cooperatives and social enterprises to link up and find common ground. Wrecsam Council staff were also present.
 Saith Seren, as well as being a Welsh Centre for the town with a growing reputation for live music and other entertainment in both English and Welsh, is developing as a hub for cooperators in the area and opening rooms upstairs in the New Year will only strengthen that situation.
 These are all organisations doing great work, reliant on their members ingenuity and self-help rather than sitting back and expecting endless grants to keep going. 
 Other local ventures such as the Ty'n y Capel can join this growing network.
 These are interesting times both internationally and locally - big business is abandoning communities like ours, the state (whether local or central) is doing less to provide services. Communities will, as they always have done, come together to form societies and cooperatives to advance their common goals. We're ahead of the game here... it's time for Wrecsam to declare itself Wales's cooperative capital.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Another BBC own goal - Entwhistle quits

News that the BBC's top man has resigned after it emerged the Newsnight story over the Bryn Estyn child abuse is no surprise. If there was a competition for "man who best resembles a rabbit caught in the headlights", George Entwhistle would have walked it.
 After six weeks in post he failed miserably to convince people he was in charge on two key elements that rose from the Jimmy Savile debacle.

Neither were problems of his own direct making. The BBC, including his predecessor, failed to adequately investigate Savile's abuse during his time at the Corporation and - crucially - failed to broadcast a Newsnight investigation into the allegations against the presenter. The story switched from being one about Saville's paedophiliac abuse to "BBC cover-up" with the Daily Mail and Murdoch's stable of papers delighting in attacking the Beeb.

The second problem was, I suspect, caused by Newsnight trying to make amends and ignoring its own producer guidelines in broadcasting a sensational story that resurrected the North Wales child abuse scandal and implicated a senior Tory from the Thatcher era. Given the nature of the allegation and the fact that the senior Tory was being named on various websites, it's inconceivable that the programme didn't contact the Tory in question - who we now know is Lord McAlpine - for a response. Even if they didn't name him - as hinted by the programme makers prior to broadcast - then it should have covered bases because this was an accusation made by one person on camera, Steven Messham.

Things started to unravel with a Guardian investigation, which revealed that Keith Gregory (another abused boy from Bryn Estyn) did not believe it was Lord McAlpine but his cousin Jimmy McAlpine, who lived at Gethyn Hall near Marchwiel until his death in 1991. As the Guardian reveals, this mistaken identity had been tackled in the Waterhouse "Lost in Care" report.

This presents problems not just for Messham and the BBC but for a host of other people who tweeted and commented. George Monbiot has apologised for innuendo and it'll be interesting to see what Susan Elan Jones (MP for Clwyd South) has to say after she made a direct link between the unnamed paedophile and a Tory in the House of Lords.

Back at the BBC, it's another own goal but this is not the BBC in terminal crisis, although that may be the case with Newsnight.

And unfortunately, the fiasco has distracted people from the real culprits in this whole story - the paedophiles who have still not been charged for their part in the abuse here in North Wales. This sorry episode will set back those who are trying to find the truth and make other victims far less likely to speak out. It's all the more important for this investigation to continue and for the media to continue asking questions, but let's have a little less of Philip Schofield-style stunts and more C4 News digging.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Plans for 1000 extra homes rejected at packed meeting

'Enough is enough' says Plaid AM

More than 100 people packed Denbigh Town Hall last night to voice their opposition to plans for thousands of extra houses in Denbighshire.

Campaigners are opposed to the proposals to increase the number of homes allocated to communities across Denbighshire by a further 1,000. The new housing plan has been proposed by Denbighshire planners after the Planning Inspectorate rejected the council's Local Development Plan.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM, spoke at the meeting, pointing out that the Planning Inspectorate was not accountable or answerable to local people or even the National Assembly. Mr Gruffydd, who lives near Ruthin, added: "They have ignored local communities and elected councillors' views to impose these extra homes on us. They do so because they are guided by artificially inflated population projections that do not reflect natural organic growth.

 "This is in addition to the thousands of homes already announced and is a pattern that is being repeated across Wales.  Enough is enough!

 "We're in danger of seeing an urban sprawl from Prestatyn to Llanfairfechan, good agricultural land being concreted over, our transport network failing to cope and our schools and health services overwhelmed. It's an ill-thought out proposal that doesn't seem bothered that there are no extra jobs for these people - so we will see an increase in commuting to Chester and Merseyside - at greater cost to the environment.

 "Of course we need some housing - we want to enable young people to stay in their communities. That means creating jobs, training opportunities and affordable housing. This plan delivers none of those things. I want to see a positive alternative that puts community need first."

He called for an accountable Planning Inspectorate for Wales, urged community campaigners to lobby the council to reject these additional houses and spoke of the growing movement across Wales against the imposition of new housing, including in neighbouring counties Conwy and Wrexham.

Other speakers included John Hutcheson and Alice Jones, of Bodelwyddan Development Action Group - who have been campaigning for years against plans to impose an extra 1700 homes on their village. Mr Hutcheson described Bodelwyddan as "one battle in this war" and that the new homes should be opposed equally as strongly as they had been in Bodelwyddan. 

Joining them was Councillor Arwel Roberts, of Rhuddlan, where the new scheme intends to allocate green fields for an additional 100 homes next to the golf course. 

The meeting agreed to lobby Denbighshire Council's full council meeting in December. Contact is also being made with other campaign groups throughout Wales facing similar situations.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Bryn Estyn - no stone unturned

Our initial posting on Saturday about the renewed interest in the Bryn Estyn child abuse scandal has continued to bring in some interesting responses.
 There's a real need to have a coordinated and methodical approach to any investigation into the actual allegations being made and the failure to fully investigate them at the time.
 Paddy French, who was involved in the Wales This Week programme that named a senior police officer and has a long track record as an investigative journalist, reveals some very disturbing links at the time that may have prevented a full inquiry in the 1990s.
 The most important aspect of any inquiry is not to examine process but to take the original allegations seriously. What is evident from the numbers phoning Welsh Children's Commissioner Keith Towler is that the victims trust him in a way that they perhaps would not trust other authorities. His office's freeline number is 0808 8011000 or Text: 80800.
 Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru's leader, has also offered to pass on confidential information and has lead the charge for a thorough investigation of the abuse beyond the homes and some of the care workers. She can contacted in confidence by writing to
 There is growing evidence of an organised paedophile ring operating in the area that involved the wealthy and the powerful. And they abused their power by targetting the powerless - the most vulnerable being children without parents to look out for them.
 In these circumstances, the bravery of people like Councillor Keith Gregory can't be underestimated. Many of the victims have struggled to build their lives after such a traumatic childhood. For those that have done successfully, the last thing they need is to revisit those dark days.
  Unfortunately this is what will have to be done to get the truth and leave no stone unturned.

Four more years

It is 4.30am and I'm pleased to say that the main news channels has called the election for President Obama. Four more years and a far greater chance of peace. Confirmed that Obama has won Ohio. Let's celebrate!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Police Commissioners

Last Thursday night I went to listen to the five Candidates for Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales take part in the TCC (an influential lobbying group) Accountability Meeting.

The candidates had been provided with 4 questions in advance of the meeting and then audience questions.

The structure of the meeting did not allow robust challenge to candidates answers which gave them the opportunity to provide populist answers to please the audience rather than pragmatic practical answers.

Richard Hibbs an independent candidate promised every household a £20 council tax rebate out of Police reserves.

Warwick Nicholson the UKIP candidate and ex cop harked back to the glory days when he joined in 1964 and gave the impression that he wished to return to the so called Dixon halcyon days
which is all very romantic but not really practical.

The third candidate was Colm McCabe the Conservative who came over as very affable with his soft Irish lilt; his answers though left a great deal to be desired. A question was asked about outsourcing police services and Colm adamantly opposed such outsourcing despite his government's support for private sector involvement in public services. In all honesty he sounded too good to be true.

In my opinion the three candidates mentioned are lightweight and inexperienced and not up to the job of Police Commissioner.

The two remaining candidates, Labour's Tal Michael and the independent Winston Roddick are both competent and experienced public servants with wide experience of Policing and criminal justice.

Both candidates provided excellent answers but with Tal Michael ahead on points; this is however unsurprising as Tal was Chief Executive of North Wales Police Authority until March this year and there was a certain expectation of him. Winston Roddick on the other hand, had an air of authority about him and he was more statesmanlike.

The crunch for me and the deciding factor was the difference between a candidate with political affiliations and an independent candidate, I just don't believe a political candidate can demonstrate the same impartiality as an independent candidate.

That is why I will be voting for Winston Roddick.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Bryn Estyn - let's see the pulped report

The Jimmy Savile case may unearth some more serious child-abuse scandals that have been covered up or under-reported for fear of upsetting the powerful.
 At least now the media are more willing to believe the victims, many of whom were understandably traumatised by their experiences. Compared to the powerful professsionals who they were testifying against, it's little wonder that juries and judges chose to believe articulate men against people who were damaged and often addicted to drugs or alcohol.
 The BBC report about the child abuse scandals of Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn that rocked Wrecsam in the 1990s mentions that Clwyd County Council pulped an independent report on the Bryn Estyn scandal. We need to know what that independent investigation unearthed and who was named in it.
 Former Tory Minister Rod Richards has named (now dead) former Chester Tory MP Peter Morrison as one of those who abused children in Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn. There is no doubt that there were more establishment figures who visited the homes.
 Was the report pulped to protect those guilty parties?

Fracking: Now we know, we will resist

Energy issues seem to be making the headlines daily in Wales at the moment - nuclear power, offshore and onshore windfarms, tidal lagoons and now Fracking.
 This post gives some of the background to hydraulic fracturing and why it's becoming an issue for Wales - or particularly the former coalfield areas of Wales. That was why local activists organised a public meeting to raise awareness about the matter and to discuss what could be done to prevent drilling in the area.
 The meeting on Thursday, at Saith Seren in Wrecsam, heard Jill Evans MEP and Gareth Clubb, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, give very useful information about the impact of fracking and why it's such a bad idea.
 Multinational companies are keen to bleed the planet dry of natural resources regardless of the impact on communities and, from their perspective, making use of coal bed methane or shale gas is perfectly logical.
 For Welsh communities that have seen coal being exploited by the wealthy over the past two centuries, only to leave us with slag heaps and dust diseases, it's important to understand that this could be a repeat performance if we don't resist.
 It was great to hear from a wide range of people in the audience - not least the activists from Staffordshire who have direct experience of how gas leaks can occur in old capped mines. Luke Ashley, a former oil-rig worker from Wrecsam, spoke convincingly about the dangers too.
 There is an imminent threat to the Flintshire and Wrecsam area posed by Dart Energy, an Australian multinational mining firm that has already applied to test drill in the Penley and Bowling Bank area. One was refused planning permission but the other was approved and has until June 2013 to start drilling. It is now evident that that test drilling could involve fracking to see whether gases can be released in commercial quantities underground. The technology used for these test bores can apparently reach as far as two miles from the bore site.
 The mood of the meeting was to ensure that no drilling will take place in Wrecsam because planning authorities have not been told of the potential dangers posed by this "test". Dart Energy - you have been warned!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Wrecsam players open Multi-Use Games Area

The new Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) was officially opened by Wrexham FC stars Danny Wright and Rob Ogleby (pictured).
 Lots of hard work to get the bid to Cory Environmental Trust approved - it was financed by Landfill Tax receipts - has finally paid off. Special thanks to Darren Richardson and the local youth club for doing so much to organise a mass petition locally to make sure the site is improved.
 The community council will maintain the site and has already committed to building up one side of the MUGA to make sure balls don't go into the Gwenfro. 
 Wrexham FC are truly a community club - both players were great with the kids and must have been freezing!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Councillor calls for Council Tenants to be compensated.

Some Gwersyllt residents are having to spend up to half their income on heating because of bureaucratic delays by Wrexham Council.

Bryn Awel Court, Gwersyllt, is one of the few blocks of flats in the County Borough with Economy 7 electrical heating, which is inefficient and expensive and increases the incidence of fuel poverty.

David Pritchard, of Bryn Awel Court, said:  

“I look after my grandchildren but I can’t have them here in winter time because it’s too cold even though it costs me £30 a week to heat the flat, which is nearly half of what I earn.”

Gwersyllt West Councillor Arfon Jones has now called for council tenants on his ward to be compensated following delays in completing legal work to allow mains gas to be piped into Bryn Awel Court. Work to allow mains gas was first requested in September last year but were not completed until August this year, Wales and West  Utilities were free to commence the work in August but have timetabled it for January 2013.


Cllr Jones said: 

“It is disgrace that the council and Wales and West Utilities will have taken 15 months to sort out legal paperwork so that we can pipe gas from the mains into Bryn Awel Court. I was promised in February this year that mains gas would be installed by August this year. It’s not fair that tenants have to suffer another winter with inadequate and expensive sources of heating.”


He added:  

“I have made a complaint to the council and they have agreed that lessons would be learnt, but that doesn’t help the tenants of Bryn Awel Court. The council and Wales and West Utilities are at fault and they should pay the tenants compensation for not dealing with what was a simple legal procedure in a timely manner.”


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Swyddi Cymraeg

Mae na ambell i sylw wedi bod yn y wasg yn ddiweddar yn tynnu sylw at ddylanwad siaradwyr Cymraeg ym mywyd cyhoeddus Cymru. Mae yr honiadau fod siaradwyr Cymraeg hefo dylanwad anghyfartal i'w niferoedd yn codi yn eitha amal yn arbennig mewn blogiau fel Gogwatch a Glasnost a chan fobol fel Karl Francis.

Rai misoedd yn ol mi nes i geisiadau o dan Ddeddf Rhyddid Gwybodaeth i bob un o'r 22 Awdurdod Lleol yng Nghymru (yn Gymraeg). Y ddau gwestiwn a ofynnwyd oedd:
  • Faint o weithwyr mae y Cyngor yn ei gyflogi ar hyn o bryd? 
  • Faint o’r gweithwyr yna sydd mewn swyddi sydd wedi ei dynodi fel fod y Gymraeg yn angenrheidiol? 

Dyma'r arebion a dderbyniwyd:

Blaenau Gwent.
3952 fel ar 09.03.12
Dim ond 2 swydd lle mae’r Gymraeg yn hanfodol, fodd bynnag nid yw hyn yn cynnwys staff  seiliedig mewn ysgol.

Castell Nedd/Port Talbot.
Mae’r Cyngor yn cyflogi tua 8,570 o weithwyr, y mae 3,782 ohonynt yn gweithio mewn ysgolion. Data rhannol yn unig sydd gennym am nifer y swyddi lle mae’r “Gymraeg yn hanfodol”. Caiff pob swydd ei hadolygu wrth iddi ddod yn wag a bod angen recriwtio rhywun newydd.

Faint o weithwyr sy’n cael eu cyflogi gan y Cyngor ar hyn o bryd – 2810 (dim ysgolion)
Faint o’r gweithwyr hynny sydd mewn swyddi Cymraeg hanfodol – 373 (dim ysgolion) 

7, 721 - gweithwyr y mae'r cyngor yn eu cyflogi
Oherwydd y ffordd y byddwn yn cadw gwybodaeth am swyddi lle mae'r Gymraeg yn hanfodol, ni allwn ddarparu gwybodaeth ynghylch nifer ein gweithwyr sydd mewn swyddi y mae'r Gymraeg yn hanofodol ar eu cyfer. 

Merthyr Tudful.
Mae’r Cyngor yn cyflogi 2,950 o weithwyr.
Yr unig swyddi sydd wedi ei dynodi fel fod y Gymraeg yn angenrheidiol yw yn yr ysgolion Cymraeg (56 athro/athrawes a Chynorthwywyr Cynnal Dysgu), a’r Swyddog Yr Iaith Gymraeg

7,124 (pawb a gyflogir)
6,191 (heb gynnwys cyflogaeth achlysurol)
Mae 78 o swyddi yn gofyn am gymhwyster a/neu'r gallu i gyfathrebu'n rhugl yn yr iaith Gymraeg.
Mae'r rhan fwyaf o'r swyddi hyn mewn ysgolion, naill ai fel athrawon Cymraeg neu fel staff mewn ysgolion cyfrwng Cymraeg.

Penybont ar Ogwr.
Faint o weithwyr mae y Cyngor yn ei gyflogi ar hyn o bryd.
Faint o’r gweithwyr yna sydd mewn swyddi sydd wedi ei dynodi fel fod y Gymraeg yn angenrheidiol.

Sir Gaerfyrddin.
Mewn ymateb i’ch cwestiwn cyntaf, mae’r Cyngor yn cyflogi 9,004 o weithwyr (25ain Mai, 2012)
Ar ôl ystyried eich ail gwestiwn yn ofalus, nid yw’n bosibl rhoi ymateb.  Wnâi rhoi esboniad paham isod.
Nid oes modd gael gafael ar y wybodaeth yn hawdd, er enghraifft drwy redeg adroddiad oddi ar system electronig, neu drwy gyfeirio at ddata coladedig
O ganlyniad, fe fyddai’n rhaid i ni gyfeirio at filoedd o broffiliau swydd unigol.  Gan fod dros naw mil o staff yn gweithio i’r Awdurdod (gan gynnwys athrawon), fe fyddai hwn yn dasg enfawr.  Os amcangyfrifir y byddai’n cymryd tua munud i ddod o hyd i bob proffil, edrych arno a chofnodi os yw’r Gymraeg yn angenrheidiol (naill ai’n ysgrifenedig neu lafar), ar amcangyfrif bras, fe fyddai’n cymryd dros gant o oriau i orffen y gwaith hwn. 

Yn ôl y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf sydd gennym (sef y wybodaeth a ddefnyddiwyd gennym yn yr adroddiad monitro blynyddol i Gomisiynydd y Gymraeg) mae’r cyngor yn cyflogi 8013 aelod o staff (ac eithrio staff ysgolion, gweithwyr achlysurol a Caerdydd ar Waith).

Nodwyd ac aseswyd dros 700 o swyddi mewn gwasanaethau rheng-flaen yn 2010/2011 a dynodwyd bod y Gymraeg yn hanfodol neu’n ddymunol ar gyfer canran o’r swyddi hyn yn unol â’r rhwymedigaethau a wnaed yng nghyfnod cyntaf y broses o weithredu ein Strategaeth Sgiliau Iaith Gymraeg, gyda lefel ofynnol o 10% yn y timau mawr, a hyd at gynifer ag sydd eu hangen ym mhob tîm penodol i warantu gwasanaeth dwyieithog yn y pwynt cyswllt cyntaf.

... Ar hyn o bryd mae’r Gymraeg yn hanfodol ar gyfer 63 o 775 o swyddi, sef 8.12%. Dynodwyd bod y Gymraeg yn ddymunol ar gyfer 627 o’r swyddi a aseswyd, sy’n golygu bod gofyniad ieithyddol ar 89% o’r holl swyddi rheng-flaen a aseswyd hyd yma.

6,654 wedi eu cyflogi yn ystod mis Mai 2012
6,612 o weithwyr mewn swyddi sydd wedi ei dynodi fel fod y Gymareg yn “angenrheidiol”. Mae’r 42 sy’n weddill mewn swyddi tu allan i Wynedd sydd heb ddynodiad iaith, gan eu bod yn perthyn i’r Asiantaeth Cefnffyrdd Gogledd a Chanolbarth Cymru sy’n gweithredu fel Asiant i Gynghorau eraill yn ogystal â Cyngor Gwynedd.

Faint o weithwyr mae y Cyngor yn ei gyflogi ar hyn o bryd. 9655

Faint o’r gweithwyr yna sydd mewn swyddi sydd wedi ei dynodi fel fod y Gymraeg yn angenrheidiol. 432 (gyda 418 ohonynt yn athrawon o fewn ysgolion cyfrwng Cymraeg)

Ynys Mon.
Faint o weithwyr mae y Cyngor yn ei gyflogi ar hyn o bryd. =  3897
Faint o’r gweithwyr yna sydd mewn swyddi sydd wedi ei dynodi fel fod y Gymraeg yn angenrheidiol. =  Nid yw’r wybodaeth yn cael ei ddal ar hyn o bryd (Rh 1 o’r Ddeddf Rhyddid Gwybodaeth)  – rydym yn gweithio tuag at allu darparu’r fath wybodaeth yn y dyfodol.

Sir Benfro. 
 Nid yw’r wybodaeth ar gael. (Noder: I gasglu’r wybodaeth hon byddai angen dadansoddi pob disgrifiad swydd er mwyn penderfynu ar y rhai lle mae sgiliau Cymraeg yn hanfodol, ac ni allwn wneud hyn o fewn y terfynau amser mae’r ymholiad DRhG yn eu caniatáu).

Sir Fynwy.
Ar 1af Ebrill, y nifer o weithwyr a gyflogwyd gan y Cyngor yw 3061
Ar wahân i’n hysgolion Cymraeg, y nifer o swyddi sydd wedi ei dynodi fel bod yn Gymraeg yn angenrheidiol yw 1.  Mae gan ein hysgolion Cymraeg cyfanswm o 36 swydd lle mae Cymraeg yn angenrheidiol.

Sir Ddinbych.
Faint o weithwyr mae y Cyngor yn ei gyflogi ar hyn o bryd.  4616.

Nid ydym yn gallu casglu’r manylion penodol rydych wedi gofyn amdanynt, gan y byddai’n rhaid casglu’r data at ei gilydd â llaw o’n cofnodion. Rwyf wedi amcangyfrif y byddai’n costio mwy na’r terfyn priodol i wneud hyn. Mae’r terfyn wedi cael ei osod mewn rheoliadau, ac i’r Cyngor mae wedi’i osod ar £450. Dyma yn ôl yr amcangyfrif yw cost un person yn treulio 2½ diwrnod gwaith yn chwilio a yw’r Cyngor yn dal y wybodaeth hon, canfod lle mae’r wybodaeth a chael gafael arni. O ganlyniad, does dim dyletswydd ar y Cyngor o dan adran 12(1) (lle mae cost cydymffurfio yn mynd yn uwch na’r terfyn priodol) Deddf Rhyddid Gwybodaeth 2000 i ymateb i’r rhan hon o’ch cais.

Faint o weithwyr mae y Cyngor yn ei gyflogi ar hyn o bryd.  6340
Faint o’r gweithwyr yna sydd mewn swyddi sydd wedi ei dynodi fel fod y Gymraeg yn angenrheidiol.  Nid yw’r Cyngor wedi dechrau ar y darn yma o waith, ac bydd yn rhan o’r Arolwg Sgiliau Iaith Gymraeg.
Mae’r Cyngor wedi newid I lefelau  ALTE , felly rydym fel Cyngor wedi newid dynodiad y Gymraeg o Hanfodol/dymunol i 5 lefel ALTE.   Yn anffodus nid yw’r Cyngor yn cofnodi nifer y swyddi gyda gwahanol lefelau ALTE. 

Yn Ebrill 2012, mae CBSW yn cyflogi 6,513 o bobl (4,957 FTE) 
13 (ddim yn cynnwys athrawon)

Er ei bod hi'n anodd cymharu yr awdurdodau mae hi'n amlwg mae chydig iawn o awdurdodau sydd yn cadw y wybodaeth ynglyn a swyddi lle mae'r Gymraeg yn hanfodol, hefo'r mwyafrif yn cuddio tu ol i'r ddeddf. 
Mae methiant awdurdodau Cymraeg ei naws fel Sir Gar, Ceredigion, Ynys Mon a Sir Ddinbych i ddarparu y wybodaeth yma yn hynod siomedig. 

Mae gwir angen i'r Comisiynydd osod safonnau ar awdurdodau cyhoeddus i gario allan awdit o sgiliau iaith ac i benodi mwy o swyddi lle mae'r Gymraeg yn hanfodol.