Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Time to bury fracking for good – Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM has welcomed news that licences to drill for unconventional gas in parts of Wrexham have run out of time, saying it’s time to look at alternatives to fracking.

Llyr Gruffydd, a consistent opponent of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on the grounds of safety, said: “Attempts by multinational companies such as iGas to start drilling for shale gas have been met with opposition on both sides of the England-Wales border. It’s now clear that the company has decided not to pursue its plan to test drill in the Borras area, which is very welcome news for local residents.

“However, there are still licences to drill in parts of Flintshire and Cheshire and we must remain vigilant. These companies may yet return to Wrexham and any activities in neighbouring areas could also impact on the water table. Fracking and unconventional drilling has been banned in many countries and has been linked with pollution of water sources, health problems and environmental pollution. Over the past two years I have pushed the Welsh Government into a position where it would call in any new planning proposal and I want to make sure that Wales is frack-free.”

Mr Gruffydd, who has visited the Borras camp set up to defend the community from fracking, said: “We have to move away from fossil fuels and develop alternative energy sources – something we’re lucky to have in abundance here in Wales. We have well-established hydro and offshore windpower, emerging solar energy and huge potential for tidal power that could provide green, clean energy for the next century. The stance taken against fracking should be seen in the context of global warming and climate change as well as the threat to local communities, people’s health and clean water.”
Daz Picken, a Borras resident and supporter of the community camp, added: “This is great news for Borras, which was the nearest community to the planned drill site. Many local people were involved in Frack-Free Wrexham and supported the camp. We can’t be complacent that iGas and other companies will just give up and we’ll continue to support campaigners in neighbouring counties but we’re determined to make sure Wrexham is kept frack free.”

Fly the flag in Wrexham - let's have a permanent legacy for the football

Plaid Cymru has today launched a petition calling on Wrexham Council to work with local businesses and public bodies to fly the flag for Wales. The call comes in the wake of the Welsh football team's success in the recent European championship.

The petition aims to provide a permanent legacy for the town, which was one of the few not to have a fanzone during the competition.

Carrie Harper, speaking for Plaid Cymru in Wrexham, said: "There was such a great feeling in Wrexham surrounding the footballing success that we wanted to build on it. Plaid Cymru had called for a fanzone back in February and, as this is Welsh football's spiritual home, we've also been pushing for a National Football Museum and an upgrade to the Racecourse stadium. 

 "Now we want to see Wrexham town centre offer a colourful and attractive display of our national flag as was seen in Cardiff during the team's parade in front of fans. I very much hope local people, local businesses and the local council can get behind this and help improve our town centre visually."

The petition, which can be signed here, states: 

“Wrexham, along with other parts of Wales, celebrated our national football team's success in the Euro 2016 Championships. This is Welsh football's spiritual home and we want to build on this feel-good factor by having a permanent legacy for our town and our country.
 We, the undersigned, call on Wrexham Council to work with local businesses and other institutions to erect Welsh flags in the town centre and other strategic sites to provide a visible, colourful and attractive display for visitors and local people alike."

Monday, 18 July 2016

13,000 houses based on the wrong population figures

Wrexham Council's Local Development Plan intends to permit 13,000 houses to be built in the borough in the next decade to cope with the anticipated 20% growth in population in coming years.

These population figures are projections - i.e. guesswork - by civil servants. Plaid Cymru's contention is that these projections are flawed because they do not take into consideration the unique circumstances that have affected Wrexham in the past decade. 

We now have proof that the anticipated population boom is not happening now and, given the economic uncertainty locally, is unlikely to happen in the coming decade.

The following net migration figures into Wrexham from the UK and from outside the UK are for the past 10 years:

                            Net int’l                            Net migration                                  Total net migration 
Year                    migration                       (from other parts of the UK)           into Wrexham
2003-4                   102                                         224                                            326
2004-5                   203                                         214                                            417
2005-6                   680                                         408                                          1088
2006-7                   571                                         386                                            957
2007-8                   663                                         308                                            971
2008-9                   866                                         -40                                             826
2009-10                595                                         -36                                              559
2010-11                431                                         259                                             690
2011-12                400                                         -44                                              356
2012-13                471                                         -362                                            109
2013-14                145                                         -114                                              31

In that decade, the borough’s population has risen from 129,000 to 136,000. Remember that this was a time of exceptional growth due to a housing boom, high employment, migration due to the EU accession states, the formation and expansion of Glyndwr University and Chester protecting its greenbelt.

What we can say with some certainty is that – based on evidence not population projections - Wrexham’s population is not now growing at anything like the rate it was 10 years ago. Back then it rose by almost 1,000 a year prior to the economic crash. In fact the last year of stats show a net growth of just 31.

Yet Wrexham’s Local Development Plan is planning to permit 13,000 extra houses for the borough based on these Welsh Government population projections. These projections have no basis in reality. Rather than building unwanted houses on greenfield sites, what we need to be doing now is ensuring that the 2,500 empty properties in the borough are brought back into use by encouraging landlords to sell/let them or ensuring the council gets its act together.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Weasel words over the Iraq war

Today of all days is not one for politicians such as Wrexham's Labour MP to try to weasel out of his responsibility for the Iraq war. Yet today's Leader carries his claim, unchallenged, that he opposed the war in 2003. He did not. That lie is nailed in this letter by Mabon ap Gwynfor that may - or may not - be published in the Leader:

Dear Editor 
I welcome Ian Lucas MP's admission of the Labour Government’s “massive mistake” in going to war in Iraq in 2003 (Leader, Friday 15 July). A war which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths both directly and indirectly. 
A war for which we will be paying the price for many decades to come. However, as a matter of accuracy it is worth correcting an impression Mr Lucas has created in the Press Release which the Leader published, namely that Mr Lucas voted against the Iraq war.  
According to Hansard, Mr Lucas did indeed vote against an amendment to the motion to go to war, which was to be welcomed. However when it came to a vote on the actual motion itself, the trigger for war on 18 March 2003, Hansard records show that Mr Lucas abstained from that vote. 
To clarify, when the opportunity came to vote against a motion to go to war, Mr Lucas abstained. Furthermore Mr Lucas says that he believes Tony Blair’s assertion that he acted in good faith, a lame excuse by the former Prime Minister to ease his troubled conscience. 
Blair took the country to war without due diligence or proper checks and balances; having withheld evidence from his Cabinet; and based on a claim which has not only transpired to be false, but was known to be false at the time because it was a figment of a spy’s excitable imagination that was inspired by Hollywood blockbuster films.  
Nothing good has come out of this atrocity. Mr Blair must be held jointly responsible for what has transpired and prosecuted. Ian Lucas and his Labour colleagues had a chance to stop him – and they failed.

Mabon ap Gwynfor
Plaid Cymru - The Party Of Wales, Clwyd South

Wrexham Leader 15/7/16

THE SUPPORT of Tony Blair for George Bush’s agenda in the Middle East in the run up to the Iraq war was “a massive mistake”, according to Wrexham MP Ian Lucas.

In a speech in the Commons following the publication of the Chilcot report, Mr Lucas described his reservations at the time – which led him to vote for an amendment opposing the Iraq war. He described a visit to the UN in New York and how the political climate in America led to war.

He told MPs: “The then US Government, acting in the long shadow of 9/11, included people with an agenda to intervene in the middle east. They used that context to justify the intervention.“In the immediate post-9/11 period, they made some really bad judgment calls. InIran, moderate forces had been holding sway before 2003. George Bush then made his dreadful “axis of evil” speech, which was part of the process that shattered any chance of a unified response to 9/11.

The alienation of Iran also had a massive negative impact on the post-war period in Iraq and undermined progress towards reconstruction. It was a massive mistake for the UK Government and Tony Blair to support the Bush and US agenda at that time.

“I am quite certain that Tony Blair acted in good faith. In March 2003, I think he believed, like Hans Blix, that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. I believe that it was through UK insistence that the US agreed to involve the UN as much as it did.

“However, when the UN weapons inspectors asked for more time in March 2003, the allies should have given it to them.

“As Sir John Chilcot concludes at paragraph 339 of the report ‘At the time of the parliamentary vote of 18 March, diplomatic options had not been exhausted. The point had not been reached where military action was the last resort.

Mr Lucas told the House he shared this view – and as a result, voted against the Labour Whip.

He also criticised the Conservatives for failing to scrutinise the then Government, telling MPs: “The official Opposition failed in their constitutional duty to ask the difficult questions and hold the Government to account. It was left to other parties in the House and the Labour Back Benchers to hold the Government to account.

“The failure of the official Opposition to challenge the Prime Minister and theGovernment effectively made his wrong decision easier. This is a big lesson for the official Opposition today.”

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Have you thought about standing for Wrexham council?

Plaid Cymru Wrexham are currently in the process of selecting candidates for the 2016 council elections. We've had more interest than ever before and although we've already selected some candidates, we're keen to make sure as many people as possible have the opportunity to get involved. 

Following a recent membership surge after the European referendum we anticipate putting forward a big team of candidates locally, so If you're interesting in being part of changing Wrexham council for the better, then now's the time to throw your hat in the ring!

If you'd like to find out more, please get in touch with us at plaidwrecsam@gmail.com or call us for a chat on 07747 792 441 and we'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Labour MP wants to shut down Welsh farming

 Ian Lucas, Wrecsam's appalling Labour MP, stands up in the House of Commons and calls to effectively shut down farming in upland Wales. He asks whether it’s possible, post-Brexit, to look at subsidies for “farming in Wales” and spend it ‘elsewhere’. Note that he is not targetting wealthy absentee landlords and the barley barons of East Anglia who rake in hundreds of thousands of pounds of Common Agricultural Policy funding but specifically Wales.
It’s estimated that 80% of family farms in upland Wales would close without these payments and it’s clear that, post-Brexit, Lucas would be happy to see them go to the wall and Wales become a green desert. The impact of losing thousands of jobs in rural communities, the impact on the wider economy, on the Welsh language and culture as well as the environment and the need for sustainable food production is incalculable. It’s a disgrace that he represents a Welsh constituency.

GHA Coaches: Time to re-regulate our public transport

Image result for GHA coaches

The overnight collapse of Ruabon-based GHA Coaches with the loss of up to 400 jobs and disruption to thousands of passengers, including school children, raises questions about the way public transport is provided in Wales.

Bus services in the UK were de-regulated under Thatcher - with the significant exception of London, where they remain under government control. Transport for London provides an oversight and degree of central planning that is the envy of the rest of the UK. It is also democratically accountable.

The result was a race for the most profitable routes, with bus firms competing with each other to pick up passengers, while less popular journeys were abandoned.

Local councils and later the Welsh Government found themselves subsidising those less-popular routes until UK spending cuts led to drastic reductions in those subsidies.

This transport chaos is unique in the world. Nowhere else believes that the market can deliver public transport effectively and the seeing Deutsche Bahn (the German state-owned train company) running the privatised Wales and Borders train franchise only adds to the irony.

Complex integrated public transport demands an overview and degree of planning that is not possible with a myriad of private bus and rail companies all operating to maximise profit and return for their shareholders rather than providing a good service at a reasonable price.

This mess is nothing new. Back in 2014, the respected Local Transport Today magazine described the Labour Government's public transport policy as a mess".

It said the Welsh bus industry is "stumbling from one predicament to another as a bewildering array of reforms comes out of Cardiff ... Funding has been cut, rules have changed and further reforms are mooted... Then there is the cut to concessionary fares reimbursement, which could yet end up in the courts."

Nothing has changed.

Anyone who uses public transport in mainland Europe - as many thousands of Welsh fans did last month - will be making very unfavourable comparisons with the Welsh public transport network in terms of cost, comfort and speed.

At present we have no integrated ticketing in Wales - again unlike regulated London. Manchester is about to have a Transport for London-style franchise  with the UK Treasury pushing the Department of Transport to re-regulate. Why not Wales?

It's estimated that 40% of all bus journeys in Wales are concessionary, i.e. free or reduced fares paid for by the Welsh Government or local councils. That's almost half bus companies income being provided direct by the taxpayer without any input into where they operate and how much they charge.

With the collapse of one of the largest firms in Wales, surely now is the time to re-regulate our buses and make the case for public transport to be run in the public interest.

Until we do, Wales will continue to see a patchy public transport network totally at odds with the integrated public transport "vision" we are often presented with by this current Welsh Government.