Friday, 20 November 2015

Health impact of fracking prompts call for review

Concerns about the potential health effects of fracking on communities have prompted Plaid Cymru shadow minister for the environment Llyr Gruffydd to call for further research into the matter.

He’s now written to the Welsh health minister asking for more information on the matter and calling for a review of existing scientific evidence.

Mr Gruffydd said:

“Many communities in Wales face the threat of fracking and drilling for unconventional gas. There is a large body of scientific evidence from around the world pointing to the health impacts of such drilling on local communities and I want the Welsh Government to examine that, especially in the light of decisions by countries across Europe and states such as New York to ban fracking.”
Mr Gruffydd’s stance has been backed by Wrexham Plaid Cymru Councillor and prominent anti-fracking campaigner Arfon Jones.

Councillor Arfon Jones, who also chairs the Wrexham Community Health Council, said: 

"The Welsh Government claims it has introduced a moratorium on fracking but the reality is even the Minister can’t guarantee he will block an application for fracking. We now need to move the debate forward to examine the vast amount of peer-reviewed literature that is available on the health effects of fracking and Public Health Wales are the best fit for carrying out the work. The last time anything like this was done was the discredited Public Health England report which was heavily influenced by the industry and dismissed health concerns.  “I believe that the Minister for Natural Resources, together with his Health colleague, needs to make a decision sooner rather than later on this important matter. I'm convinced that any literature review will reach the same conclusion as the New York State reports which concluded that there were, 'significant uncertainty of the level of risk to public health.'  “The Minister would then have sufficient evidence to make an informed decision on the future of Unconventional Gas exploration in Wales.”

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Charging for Freedom of Information requests.

Denbighshire Council are calling on the government to introduce charging for FOI requests as part of the consultation into the Freedom of Information Act:
The council is suggesting a nominal charge of £20 be made for each request, that the time limit is reduced from 18 to 10 hours and that time spent on redaction should also be taken into account. 
“It is believed that introducing these changes would reduce the burden for public authorities to a more manageable level whilst maintaining the public’s statutory rights of information access, says the report.
The following is a letter which I sent to the Daily Post in reply to the article:
Dear Editor, 
Denbighshire Council want to charge for Freedom of Information requests, (Post, Nov 14th) because council staff spend so much time processing requests. The Council quotes that requests have more than doubled since the act came in; but isn't that to be expected as people adapt to the new legislation. 
As an elected Councillor at Wrexham I have had to resort on many occasions to making FOI requests of my own council and a lot of the time they create work for themselves by jealously guarding the information to the point of pedantry and accessing it is like 'getting blood out of a stone.'

If council's in Wales want to reduce the costs of freedom of information then they should publish more of their information and there should be a presumption in favour of publication rather than "we'll only publish what we have to" which is the situation at present.

Until such time as local Council's do what is right in terms of publication rather than having to do what they have to, then an unchanged Freedom of Information Act is essential to hold public authorities in Wales to account. Any tinkering or weakening of the Act will lead to LESS openness and transparency. 
Councillor Arfon Jones.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Keep HMRC jobs in the North - petition launched

Plaid Cymru’s Carrie Harper has launched a petition to keep the tax office in Wrexham open. The move comes after HMRC yesterday announced the closure of all its tax offices, to be replaced with 13 regional centres.
 Just one will remain in Wales - in Cardiff. Staff in North Wales – where almost 400 people were based in Wrexham and Porthmadog - are expected to move to Liverpool.
 Ms Harper said:
“This centralisation will have a devastating effect on the Wrexham economy, which has seen other job losses in recent weeks. There is a high degree of expertise and local knowledge in the Wrexham tax office that will be lost if this closure is allowed to take place.
“It’s clear that HMRC claims that there are alternative jobs available for staff relocating to Liverpool are not, in fact, credible. Uniquely North Wales can provide a Welsh-language service that is well-used and respected.
“I’m therefore calling for a united front with workers, the PCS union, politicians of all colours and the wider community to fight for these jobs. We’re calling on HMRC and the UK Government to re-think its plans, to keep a regional centre in the North and maintain the Welsh-language callcentre here.”

Please sign and share the petition: