Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Fundraiser to re-open Plas Madoc Leisure Centre

The first fundraising event to fill the coffers of sPLASh Community Trust takes place on May 17th at the Air Products Club in Acrefair with local bands Movin On and The Avenues confirmed. Tickets cost just £5 and are available from local outlets or Marc Jones on 07747 792441.

The following weekend, there's a fun quiz fundraiser at the same venue.

Cuts! What cuts? Here's one area of council spending that will increase every year until 2028

One area of Wrecsam Council spending that will increase regardless of the cutbacks is the waste disposal department.
 Because a 25-year Public Finance Initiative contract with the WRG group was signed in May 2007 after many years of negotiations.
 This contract came into force in April 2009 and the true cost of the controversial scheme has always been hidden behind closed doors. Councillors were forbidden to discuss the cost of the contract, which contracted out the refuse and waste disposal service, because it was always a Part 2 item on the agenda.
 However, tucked away on page 31 of the council's accounts for 2012-13 is the financial detail:

 In the first year, the council paid £12,728,000 to WRG.
The annual cost in the subsequent years increased dramatically.

2010-14   £12,873,000 a year
2015-18   £14,806,000 a year
2019-23   £16,513,000 a year
2024-28   £18,407,000 a year
2029-33     £4,908,000 a year

By the end of the contract in 2034, the council will have spent £332,500,000 on running the waste disposal service in the small borough. That figure could increase if inflation rises because the contract is not capped.

 PFIs are now discredited but were all the rage during the 1990s and early 2000s as first the Tories and then Blair's Labour government sought to offload public debt onto future generations. In the process they guaranteed huge and ongoing profits for big business.

 They saddled councils like Wrecsam with huge and ever-growing annual payments, which will be made all the worse as every other aspect of the council's budget has to be squeezed dramatically. And it's not as if we didn't warn you... Plaid Wrecsam has been on the case of the PFI scandal for the past four years.

 The council officers who recommended this deal and the councillors daft enough to back it should hang their heads in shame. They have saddled a whole generation with a huge repayment that will make the provision of other key services much more difficult in the coming years.

UPDATE: Councillor Neil Rogers has pointed out that he was not leader of the council in 2007. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Voting Against Their Economic Interests.

Some weeks ago I saw an email from a Welsh Unite officer to members explaining why they should vote Labour at the European Elections:
We are now just over a month away from the key European elections on Thursday May 22nd– elections that really matter to us here in Wales, not least because around 150,000 jobs in Wales are dependent on European funding and the Welsh Government’s Jobs Growth Wales programme is part funded by the EU but also many of our workplace rights come from European legislation.
The European Parliament is, unfortunately, currently dominated by the right wing parties, if we want to protect and extend workers’ rights and the benefits we get from Europe then we need to get more Labour MEPs elected on May 22nd.

Right, so we have that clear then, 'Vote Labour to protect worker's rights.'!

Unite they have been pretty consistent in their opposition calling for higher Labour standards in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
Workers Uniting, a three million member trans-Atlantic labour union, has issued a call to European Union and U.S. trade negotiators to strengthen social and labour protections in the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). 
“We view TTIP as a threat to the rights of workers in Europe,” said Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the union in the UK and Ireland. “We can’t afford to import America’s low labour rights standards.” 

So the position of the Unions are quite clear, they believe that signing up to the TTIP will bring 'workplace rights' in the EU down to the low standards suffered by US workers.

Let's compare that with the stance taken by our Labour MEP's in the European Parliament where you would expect them to vote against the TTIP, but that didn't happen as outlined in the Labour Futures blog :
Last week Parliament debated the Transatlantic Trade and investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated – in secret – between the EU and USA. It was almost universally approved on both sides of the House, with only one Labour and one Tory MP expressing scepticism or opposition. It was argued that it will stimulate trade by removing tariffs and thus promote jobs and economic growth.
That is nonsense since these tariffs are already at minimal levels. Even US and EU officials admit that the real goal is to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations . Yet these ‘barriers’ are in reality some of our most valuable social standards and environmental regulations such as labour rights, food safety rules (including restrictions on GMOs), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and even banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crash.
So again why isn’t the Labour Party wholly opposed and not even demanding that the veil of secrecy over the current negotiations be immediately lifted so that the public can be aware of what is being negotiated ostensibly in its name? This goes to the heart of Parliamentary politics today. The Blairite domination of the Labour Party from 1994-2007 perverted Labour from a social democratic/socialist party into a fully signed up neoliberal capitalist party. 
So there you have it, Unite the Union advocating that their members vote Labour in the European elections which is clearly against the economic interests of Trade Union members and non unionised workers.
It is our responsibility in Plaid Cymru to point out to voting public the crass hypocrisy of the Labour Party and the Unions who put the Labour Party before the interests of their own members.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Identifying cancer clusters - but not explaining

A new health atlas for Wales and England maps out various illnesses and diseases down to ward level. The maps show some surprising clusters and the high level of some cancers for parts of Wales is very worrying.
 Breast cancer, for example, is highest in North Wales and parts of Pembrokeshire.
 Skin cancer, by contrast, is far more of a problem in Cornwall and Devon.
 There may be a simple explanation - that these areas tend to have an older population and cancer is a more common problem among older people. There will also be environmental, industrial and other matters of personal health choices that cause spikes. What is clear is that for some cancers and other illnesses, Welsh communities are above the normal risk levels.
 Given this useful information, it seems logical that more health resources are needed to tackle these concentrations - whether they are in Oxfordshire, Cornwall or Gwynedd.
 But there doesn't seem to be any inclination from the UK Government that health care should be provided on the basis of need.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Let the people decide on town centre changes

A Freedom of Information request by Plaid Wrecsam has revealed the council has plans to demolish the Memorial Hall as part of its masterplan to re-organise the Bodhyfryd part of town, which currently houses the police station, courts, Waterworld and Crown Buildings. report that the police tower block will be demolished within two years and that will mean the courts will move, due to the need for custody suites.
 The FOI also shows that the council's consultants recommend that Waterworld is closed and replaced with another leisure facility on the Crown Buildings site.
 This leaves a huge open space in the town centre with easy access to the ring road. It is also opposite another prime site, the old Groves school, which has needed re-developing for the past decade.
 What does the council intend to do with this blank canvas? The council faces some limitations with regard to the Groves school due to covenants limiting future use for education and there seems to be a commitment to retain the original school building by converting it to apartments, but nothing else is set in stone.
 Given the council's abysmal track record of listening to local opinion on matters of importance, now is the time that the public should start to demand a say in how our town centre is re-developed. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that should not be missed. Town centres are rapidly changing due to online shopping and out-of-town shopping centres such as Cheshire Oaks. 
 Bodhyfryd (which translates as "beautiful place") is a wonderful opportunity - if handled imaginatively - to regenerate our town centre. 
 In the past, the council has relied on outside consultants. All too often these consultants will take an idea from another town (which explains why we've got so many identikit town centres) and superimpose it on Wrecsam, regardless of whether it works.
 How about we do things differently this time round? How about we ask the imaginative and creative people of our county borough to come up with their own plan? Let's use the creative skills we have in terms of architects, planners, engineers, dreamers and schemers to come up with something innovative and unique that will make people proud once again to say "This is Wrecsam".
 Over to you...

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Health critic offered platform in North Wales.

Press Release.

An outspoken critic of the Welsh Government’s handling of the NHS could be invited to speak in North Wales.

A motion to the North Wales Community Health Council inviting rebel Labour MP Ann Clwyd to speak is being considered at their meeting next week.

Ms Clwyd has been at the centre of a bitter row with Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, after he criticised her for not providing evidence of complaints against the Welsh NHS in the wake of her husband’s death in a Cardiff hospital.
Attempts to invite her to attend the Assembly’s health scrutiny committee to give evidence were then blocked by Labour AMs.

Now Cllr Arfon Jones, of Wrexham, and other Plaid Cymru members of the CHC are pushing the health council to invite Ms Clwyd to address them and have the opportunity to provide evidence of the issues in the NHS. Cllr Jones said: 

“The gagging of a senior MP on a matter of vital importance is very disturbing. That’s why I and other CHC members felt it important to give her a platform and speak up for patients, which is after all the CHC’s remit.

“What has happened so far is Labour tribalism at its worst. The Health Committee should scrutinise the work of the NHS in Wales and partisan Labour AMs have have failed to do because they put their party before the public interest.”

His call was backed by Councillor Mair Rowlands: 

"Ann Clwyd is respected across the political spectrum in Wales and has a deep knowledge of the NHS. We really do need to hear her views on the performance of our Health Service and what can be done to improve things.

 “Putting a gagging order on her is already proving to be counterproductive for the Labour Party in Wales as more and more people want to hear her views. Many people are already scared about future services in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and her comments would be a valuable contribution to the debate about the future of Health Services in North Wales.”
If accepted, the motion to allow Ms Clwyd to speak will be voted upon next week.

The move was welcomed by Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd, who has raised a number of concerns about Betsi Cadwaladr’s senior management over the past three years:

“I’m glad our representatives on the Community Health Council are taking this forward. Ann Clwyd has been treated very shabbily by the First Minister and other Labour AMs who recently cynically blocked an opportunity for her to present evidence to the Assembly’s Health Committee. She should be given a fair opportunity to provide evidence of what she sees are failings in the service.”