Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Pledge to improve education at heart of new scrutiny chair’s vision for Wrexham

Plaid Cymru's Gwersyllt West Councillor, Arfon Jones, has been elected as Chair of the Council's Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee.

Cllr Jones was chosen by fellow councillors at the full council meeting tonight. He had previously been Lead Member for Children's Services from 2008 and 2012 and has been a member of the Scrutiny Committee, which scrutinises education services in Wrecsam, since 2012. He replaces Labour Councillor Ann Evans.

Cllr Jones said: 
"I am very honoured to be appointed chair of this important and influential scrutiny committee. My priorities will be to support Ysgol Clywedog and Ysgol Rhosnesni in their efforts to come out of special measures by improving standards. I will also be looking to help improve standards across all our schools.

“I would also like to see elected members have a better understanding of school data and to use it positively to improve educational standards rather than use it to 'beat schools up with.' 
As regards Welsh-medium education, Cllr Jones said:
 "We in Plaid Cymru have always been at the forefront of promoting Welsh education and I want to ensure that Welsh-medium education has a 'level-playing field' and does not suffer disproportionately from the effects of the cuts the council is making. This applies across the board - from nursery provision to post-16 education."

Bebb de-selection call

Guto Bebb's future as Aberconwy MP appears to be under threat after calls for him to be de-selected.

The calls were made by local solicitor Dylan Moore, who Bebb wrongly accused in Parliament of being the co-author of a local blog called The Thoughts of Oscar. The entire blog has since been removed by the author Nigel Hughes, who maintains he was the only person responsible for it.

We reported here how Bebb had made very serious allegations against Dylan Moore, allegations he has now withdrawn and apologised for - presumably to avoid legal action. It's incredible that any MP would make such a wild accusation without testing the evidence and supports the view of many that his prime aim was to connect neighbouring Tory MP David Jones with the blog.

Moore's deselection call is significant because he is a business partner of Clwyd West MP David Jones, who has a long-standing rivalry with Bebb. It will be interesting to see if and when Tories in Aberconwy respond to the call, especially given Bebb's fragile relationship with some of them.

Prison will put local emergency services under huge pressure

Wrexham’s planned new prison will put local emergency services under additional pressure, says Plaid Cymru's parliamentary candidate Carrie Harper.

Plaid Cymru added that Wales’s First Minister is misleading local people over the planned new prison when he says it wouldn’t cause any extra pressures on health, police and fire services.

In a recent newspaper article, First Minister Carwyn Jones was asked if he shared local people’s concerns about the impact of the proposed jail in Wrexham on existing emergency services.

His answer was an emphatic No:

“No I don’t. I can speak from experience on this because I have a prison in my own constituency and all these fears were expressed about HMP Parc when it was built in the mid-90s. There has been no indication at all in the last 20 years of that prison being open of any extra pressure being brought on the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend as a result of it.”
Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary candidate for Wrexham, said:

“The First Minister is incredibly complacent or ignorant about the impact of prisons on local services. According to official statistics for 2013 HMP Parc in his own Bridgend constituency saw the emergency services going to the prison no less than 238 times in 2013. That’s more than four times a week.

· South Wales Police recorded 129 incidents (not all may have been responded to).

· Welsh Ambulance Service attended 105 AS1 incidents

· South Wales Fire Service attended 4 incidents recorded as 'Fire'

“It should be remembered that the proposed new prison in Wrexham would be 50% bigger than the one in Parc. These figures challenge the notion that a large prison is 'impact free' for the local community and emergency services, which are already hard pressed. The last thing we need at the moment is additional pressures on already hard-pressed ambulance, police and fire services.

“We need an honest debate about the cost of this prison on the NHS, police and fire service.

 "Furthermore one of the key arguments for placing the prison in North Wales was to assist prisoners or prison leavers from the region to take advantage of the support services available to them either by local authorities or the Welsh Government (e.g. Transitional Support Service and Prison Link Cymru). By building a prison in north Wales it is anticipated that the estimated 500 prisoners from north Wales who will be held there would take advantage of the services made available to Welsh prisoners by local support services and agencies.

“Who will pay for these additional support services once the prison is built? What impact will the prison have on local housing service, local drug and alcohol abuse facilities and the like? The First Minister is living in cloud-cuckoo land if he believes there is no cost to the Welsh taxpayer from this huge new facility.”
She added: “Westminster still has control over prisons and policing in Wales, something Plaid Cymru wants to see devolved. If elected in May 2015, I will be pressing the Ministry of Justice of answers on the above matters and raising the concerns of Wrexham people in London.”

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Unique lecture on Scottish referendum by Welsh historian

Wales's most prominent historian is to give a landmark lecture on Scotland's independence referendum at Saith Seren in Chester Street, Wrecsam.

Dr John Davies, of Cardiff, delivered the lecture in Glasgow recently to an appreciative audience.

The lecture, entitled "A historical perspective on Welsh and Scottish politics and why Scotland should vote Yes", is on Youtube but many people in Wales were keen to hear it first hand. Now they'll get the chance with the event starting at 7pm on Tuesday, September 16, just two days before the actual referendum.

Admission to the lecture, which will be in English, is free but people are recommended to reserve seats beforehand by contacting or 07747 792441.

The event is being organised by Wrecsam says Yes, which supports the independence referendum campaign. A spokesman said:
"John Davies is an entertaining and insightful public speaker and this lecture will be a unique opportunity for fans of Welsh history as well as those interested in the Scottish referendum to hear his historical take on what promises to be a momentous occasion."

 Dr Davies is author of The History of Wales and taught history at University College Wales, Aberystwyth for many years. In 2005 Davies received the Glyndŵr Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales during the Machynlleth Festival. He won the 2010 Wales Book of the Year for Cymru: Y 100 lle i'w gweld cyn marw (100 places to see in Wales before you die).

Plaid councillors call for Living Wage and funding for Plas Madoc

Plaid Cymru councillors have set up their own group on Wrexham Council in the wake of the turmoil created by the Labour split. Councillors Arfon Jones (Gwersyllt West) and Keith Gregory (Smithfield) had previously been part of the Wrexham Independent Group.

A statement by the group said: 
"Plaid Cymru councillors on Wrexham Council will not be joining the Tory/Independent coalition as it is fundamentally the same administration that got itself in a right mess over Plas Madoc. The same administration has maintained the mayor and senior salaries while closing frontline services such as libraries, buses, community centres and grass cutting.
 "After informal meetings with the current Leader and Deputy Leader, we do not feel anything will change. 
 "Plaid Cymru wanted a commitment from them to pay the lowest-paid staff a Living Wage. We have 1,300 low-paid, mainly part-time women employees who are having to do two or three jobs to make ends meet. The lukewarm response that our request received confirmed our decision not to support the new administration. 
 "We have worked with campaigners to keep Plas Madoc open and believe the council should support the community effort to re-open Plas Madoc. Plaid Cymru wants the best for Wrexham and we will continue to hold the council to account and scrutinise its decisions."

Guto Bebb, David Jones and North Wales Police

Yesterday in Parliament, Guto Bebb (Tory MP for Aberconwy) made very serious allegations about North Wales Police and a colleague of fellow Tory MP David Jones. These allegations were made during a debate he secured about an anonymous local blog called The Thoughts of Oscar are outlined in Hansard.

Bebb did so using parliamentary privilege. We do not have the same protected privilege to comment on those allegations but draw your own conclusions.

Bebb's previous libel threats against The Thoughts of Oscar have prompted the blog to close - these related to an article that can be viewed here. Curiously, we're not aware that Bebb has taken steps to remove this article, which suggests his concern was primarily with The Thoughts of Oscar.

The most serious allegation regarding North Wales Police is of "collusion" with the blog:
"I have many constituents who are now adamant that the reason why the police in north Wales did nothing was that this site was being afforded a degree of protection."
Politically the most incendiary information is that he names a Colwyn Bay solicitor who works with David Jones MP as a contributor to the aforementioned blog:
"The private investigation company, Lewis Legal, is a north Wales-based civil and criminal evidence-gathering service that numbers among its clients local authorities in North Wales and which has worked with and for some police forces. I met Mr Michael Naughton from the company to discuss the names mentioned in his report and the nature of the evidence gathered. On a scale of one to 10, with one being “no confidence” and 10 being “absolute confidence”, I asked him how certain he was that a Mr Nigel Roberts, a local business man, and Mr Dylan Moore, a solicitor at David Jones and Company, were involved. In both cases, he stated that he would rate both names as a 10 and would be confident in his evidence in any court of law. Indeed, this morning, I received an e-mail from Mr Nigel Roberts confirming his involvement with the blog site in question. The third name mentioned was classed as being rated at eight on a scale of one to 10 and despite parliamentary privilege, I do not intend to name this individual."

Last of the Empire Wine

Cammo, Cleggy and Millie head off on a great adventure Oop North in a bath-tub in a desperate last-ditch bid to woo Nora McBatty. It all ends in tears as they get lost on Ribblesdale Moor and Nora elopes with the handsome Alex.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Coroner Blast for Medical Services.

John Gittins the Coroner for North Wales has criticised the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and the Welsh Ambulance Service whilst bringing back a 'narrative verdict' at the inquest into the death of Clive Turner whose treatment had been delayed due to Ambulance waiting time outside the Maelor and discharge following a misdiagnosis:
"For the second time this year John Gittins, the coroner for North Wales and Central, is to submit a report calling on the Welsh Ambulance Service and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to resolve the problem of ambulances queueing outside hospitals. 
He is also planning meet senior officials of both bodies to discuss the crisis. 
At the end of an inquest in Wrexham he also said he planned to raise concerns about other matters raised by the case."
Whilst I welcome the intervention of the Coroner in an attempt to prevent unavoidable deaths of hospital patients in the future, I don't agree the emphasis should be on the Ambulance Service and delays in transfer. The following letter was sent to the Daily Post in response:

Dear Editor,

It was sad to read about the avoidable and untimely death of Mr Clive Turner from your report from the inquest, "Coroner Blast for Medical Services" (Post, Sept 5th), and I welcome John Gittins's decision to seek a meeting with BCUHB and the Ambulance.

As a member of the North Wales Community Health Council as well as being an user of services at the Emergency Department at the Maelor perhaps you will allow me to make a few observations.

Whilst there are undoubtedly shortcomings in the management and staffing levels of the Welsh Ambulance Services, that is not the whole story by any means.

The fact that Majors, the Minor Injury Unit and GP Out of Hours are all co-located at the Emergency Department, does not help patients to 'Choose Well', or for staff to deliver the service; in fact it reminds me of the Police Precinct in the film, "Fort Apache - The Bronx."

Secondly, any investigation needs to concentrate on 'bed management' within the Maelor. I firmly believe that most delays are caused by 'bed blocking' in A&E caused by insufficient beds in the Surgical and Medical Assessment Units and the re-admission of patients discharged too soon due to the non-availability of recuperative beds in the community.

Councillor Arfon Jones.

An inauspicious start for Tory candidate.

Andrew Atkinson is the Tory candidate for Wrexham  in the  2015 General Election. He is a local Wrexham lad who has been living in Herefordshire for some time. His first attempt at raising his profile and getting name recognition has not impressed the Wrexham business community:

The following letter was sent to the Leader in response to this article:

Dear Editor,

Having read Andrew Atkinson's comments in your article (Leader, Sept 4th), I must say I am none the wiser as to what he means as to 'standards' in the town? Is he referring to anti social behaviour or is he referring to empty shops? In continuing this letter, can I presume he is referring to empty shops?

Empty shops is in fact a symptom of economic downturn something we have been suffering since 2008, and not improved by Mr Atkinson's Tory government austerity measures which have seen wages fall in real terms which means less disposable income.

In the article Mr Atkinson calls for action from the council! Is he not aware of £10.6 million town centre regeneration money from Welsh Government earlier this year? Is he not aware of the £1.5 million coming into the county annually from Communities First?

What is most surprising is the fact that Mr Atkinson doesn't know that his own Conservative Councillors are prominent in the administration that run Wrexham Council. In fact Councillor Rodney Skelland is the Chair of the Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny Committee which leads on regeneration.

Without doubt this is an inauspicious start to Mr Atkinson's General Election campaign.

Councillor Arfon Jones.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Statement by Plaid Cymru on split in Wrexham Labour Party

“This is not unexpected given the rumours that have been flying about recently. 
 "But the last thing people in Wrexham need at the moment is a Labour-run council tearing itself apart because of personal rivalries and infighting. The two rival groups are equally quilty of closing key services such as Plas Madoc, libraries and bus routes while doing nothing about the mayor and top salaries.
 “We need an effective council that concentrates on delivering the best for our borough.It's clear that the Labour Party is not capable of doing this. Plaid Cymru will continue to insist on looking again at the closure of Plas Madoc and scrapping the mayor’s allowance. Strong leadership is now essential if we are to protect our borough from the worst of the UK Government's austerity measures.”