Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Historic child sex abuse investigation in North Wales

In the wake of North Wales Police becoming involved in investigating historic child abuse allegations in sports clubs, Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said:

“We must have complete transparency in any investigation into historic child sex abuse allegations in North Wales. Those investigations should be comprehensive and thorough to ensure that any victims have the confidence to come forward.
“It also reminds us of the need to continually strengthen advocacy services for children and young people in Wales. The Waterhouse inquiry back in 2000 highlighted how children had not been believed or listened to.
“Since then we have seen a succession of reports from Assembly committees and previous Children’s Comissioners raising concerns about the lack of advocacy services in Wales.
“The realisation of a national approach to statutory advocacy services is long overdue. It’s unacceptable that 16 years after the Waterhouse inquiry we’re still waiting and cases such as this should remind us all that whatever the practical challenges ensuring children have the support to speak out is paramount.”

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Delight as Groves school building saved from the bulldozers


Plaid Cymru's Wrexham spokesperson has welcomed news that The Groves school building has been listed and safeguarded from demolition.

Carrie Harper said:

"I'm delighted the campaign to see this building used for education has finally won the day, in the face of a council that's failed in so many ways.
"It's failed to outline a vision for the future of the site; it's failed in terms of stopping Coleg Cambria from developing the building as a modern educational setting and it's completely failed to explain what it wants to do with the site - even if the building had been demolished.
"People rightly feared that the site was being prepared for a sell-off for yet more housing because there's so much distrust of the council's motives.
"Now the building is staying, let's see an agreement by all to work together to ensure we have a site of educational excellence in the town as soon as is possible."

First Minister fails to back full investigation into Dee Valley Water takeover bid

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, has expressed disappointment after the First Minister failed to back his call for a full investigation into the future of Dee Valley Water.

The Wrexham-based company is facing a hostile takeover bid by Severn Trent Water, which could see the 150-year-old company disappear with the loss of jobs, local suppliers and the quality of service for customers.

Mr Gruffydd asked whether the First Minister would back a Competition and Markets Authority Phase 2 investigation that would look into the implications of such a takeover.

Speaking after First Minister Questions, Mr Gruffydd said: 
“This is a critical time for the future of Dee Valley Water. We need a united front from politicians of all colours to back the workforce and customers to ensure we maintain jobs, services and the quality of service that Dee Valley provides. That was why I pressed the First Minister to back calls for a full investigation but I was disappointed to hear him duck the issue.  
“There are wider issues at stake here that could impact on the entire Welsh water industry. I’d expect the First Minister to provide a far clearer stance in stating that we want water services in Wales to be run from Wales rather than from Coventry. Having met with the Dee Valley workforce on Friday I’m in no doubt that that is what they want and that’s what is best for water consumers in Wales.”
Watch the exchange here.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Wales suffers worst 'not-spot' coverage in UK

Plaid Cymru push for UK mobile data expansion

How long have people been banging on about poor mobile or broadband reception in Wales - not just rural parts but across the country?

It's a disgrace that Wales remains the part of the UK with the worst 'not-spot' problem, despite successive "initiatives" by the UK Government, Welsh Government and private monopoly BT to improve the situation. 

To try to speed up things, Plaid Cymru will today push amendments in the House of Commons to ensure the whole of the UK can access high-speed mobile data signal.

The Plaid Cymru amendments will enable mobile network operators to use publicly-funded infrastructure as masts, avoiding the need for additional masts to be built and potentially speeding-up the process of reaching mobile not-spots across Wales and the other UK countries.

The party is also calling for mobile users to be allowed to ‘roam’ to other networks where their own provider cannot provide a signal. The Party’s Media spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, will argue that it is “absurd” that whilst Welsh citizens are in the dark when it comes to mobile data signal, it is not a problem for foreign tourists who are allowed to roam.

Ofcom’s ‘Connected Nations’ report, published in 2015, identifies Wales as the country in the UK with the least 3G signal.  Outdoor voice 2G and 3G Coverage on A and B roads by the four operators is around 50%, with only one operator reaching 76%. The percentage of premises getting basic voice calls coverage from all the big four networks in 2015 was just 65%, compared to 85% for the rest of the UK.

Plaid Cymru’s Media spokesperson Hywel Williams MP, said:  

“So called ‘not-spots’ have been a problem in Wales for far too long and successive governments have utterly failed to get a handle on it. Ofcom has identified Wales as the least connected country in the UK with rural Wales in particular being served badly.

“This isn’t just an inconvenience – it is a very damaging barrier to business in many parts of Wales and especially in rural areas where there is no such thing as ‘passing trade’. A barrier to business also means a barrier to jobs and the decline of rural towns.

“Whilst the problem is serious for Welsh citizens and Welsh businesses, it is not a problem for visitors to the UK because their foreign SIM cards automatically allow for national roaming, meaning their mobile will connect with the strongest signal available, regardless of the provider.

“In comparison, British mobile phone users are stuck with a single provider and, by extension, a lack of mobile phone coverage in areas not covered by their provider. In some areas of North West Wales, service users are more likely to be able to pick up stronger roaming signals from Ireland than they are signals from their very own network operator.

“National roaming is allowed in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and in some parts of France. Our amendments would enable Welsh citizens and businesses to do so too.

Our amendments would also allow multiple mobile network operators such as O2 and Vodafone to use publicly-funded infrastructure as masts, not just EE as is currently the case.  This would avoid the need for them to build new masts themselves, speeding up the process of reaching these mobile not-spots and helping to achieve truly universal coverage.

“The Government has committed to funding masts for the Emergency Services Network so the infrastructure will already be in place. Whilst the Government has embarked upon this contract with EE, we argue that, because EE will be able to offer improved commercial services as a result of this infrastructure, the Government should allow access for all commercial networks instead of handing over a monopoly to one company.

“Successive governments have promised to deal with this issue and have repeatedly failed to do so. The government should accept Plaid Cymru’s amendments and finally act on their promises to the people of Wales and the UK.”

Dozens of firms supplying Dee Valley Water could lose out if takeover goes through

Here are the dozens of local firms who currently supply services to Dee Valley Water. There are about 80 in the Wrexham/Flintshire/Denbighshire area alone.

Thanks to for supplying the map.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Public appeal to Dee Valley shareholders: back your local water firm

Local jobs, services and suppliers at risk from hostile takeover bid - Plaid AM

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has made a public appeal to Dee Valley Water shareholders to consider local jobs, services and customers before making a decision on the proposed takeover of the firm by Severn Trent Water.

Speaking after a two-hour visit to the Dee Valley Water HQ at Packsaddle, Pentrebychan, near Wrexham, where he met managers and workers, he said there was obvious concern at all levels of the company about the uncertainty caused by the takeover bid.

Mr Gruffydd said: 
“This is no ordinary takeover. Firstly, we’re dealing with the most basic natural resource – water – and secondly, this is a local firm steeped in history and one with an excellent track record in terms of delivering a quality service. It’s very clear that this is far more than just another company in terms of staff commitment to quality and to their customers in the area.  
“The aggressive takeover bid by Severn Trent would probably mean at least half that workforce disappearing, the 80 local suppliers losing out and customers having to deal with a remote multinational firm based in Coventry. That’s why I’m making a public appeal today to Dee Valley’s many small shareholders to consider these issues very carefully when it comes to the vote at the Extraordinary General Meeting in January. 
"Some may believe that the takeover of a water firm by another water firm is a natural fit but the negative impact on jobs, local suppliers and customer service of a Severn Trent takeover is becoming increasingly clear.”

Mr Gruffydd also called for the Competition and Markets Authority, which regulates monopoly takeovers, to instigate a Phase 2 investigation. This is a more in-depth investigation to examine what impact the proposed takeover would have on consumers and the water regulator’s ability to monitor and make comparisons between water enterprises. The CMA has already launched a more limited Phase 1 inquiry but Mr Gruffydd said he believed there were grounds to go for the more comprehensive Phase 2 investigation.

After meeting staff, Mr Gruffydd said: 
“Management and workers alike stressed that this was a successful company that was delivering a good service, providing steady employment and using local suppliers. The ping-pong of rival takeover bids has introduced a very unwelcome level of uncertainty into people’s lives and workers and consumers alike are being treated as mere spectators in a game where nobody’s quite sure of the rules.
 "There is a wider game afoot, involving attempts to muscle into the Welsh water industry by a company based in England. That’s not welcome by me, by the workforce or by the wider community.  “I will continue to do my best to serve the interests of people who deliver this important service and also ensure that water consumers are given a voice in all of this. I’m grateful for the support of Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood in raising this in the Senedd earlier this week and we will not abandon this struggle until we safeguard the future of Dee Valley Water.” 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Wrexham Council opposes fire engine cut

Good to see these headlines with Wrexham Council coming out firmly against the planned cuts in the fire service locally, including the loss of one fire engine and 24 firefighters.

Momentum is building behind the campaign to save our services, thanks in part to the huge march through the town earlier this month and the thousands that have signed our petition.

Plaid Cymru activists have been busy knocking doors each week for the past two months to collect support for the petition and deserve a huge pat on the back for keeping this issue live, in contrast to the failure of the local MP and AM to make any public statement.

Dee Valley Water: Assurances sought on jobs and services from Ancala

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has called for assurances on jobs and services after it emerged that a new bid for Dee Valley Water had been made.

A fresh bid for the Wrexham-based water firm by Ancala, a private equity firm, would – if accepted – trump a previous bid by Severn Trent Water that threatened jobs and local suppliers.

Llyr Gruffydd said: 
“The takeover bid by Severn Trent was a direct threat to many of the company’s workers and local suppliers. It would have seen the end of the company as a separate entity and that’s why I and the local workforce were so concerned. 
“This new bid by Ancala would, is successful, safeguard Dee Valley Water as a distinct company and that is to be welcomed. But there remain questions to be answered by the new bidders about guarantees to maintain jobs, local suppliers and the current quality of customer services. “I’ve now written to Ancala’s vice-president Tim Power asking for more information and will continue to work on behalf of Dee Valley Water staff to ensure that the current level of service and employment are maintained. He has responded positively this morning and promised to meet me at the earliest opportunity.” Mr Gruffydd added: “There are wider implications to this whole episode. This process has happened without any involvement or say by either the workforce or consumers. This is not a factory making widgets that we’re talking about – it’s an essential Welsh natural resource and I think we need to start a conversation about how we need all water in Wales to be run for the benefit of the people of Wales rather than be at the mercy of aggressive takeovers and outside interests. This is as good a time as any to ask: for whose benefit should water services in Wales be operating?”

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Breaking news: New bid for Dee Valley Water

Ancala, a London-based investment management firm, has tonight put in a new bid for Dee Valley Water that offers a penny extra to shareholders.

The offer of £17.06 per share trumps the existing Severn Trent offer of £17.05 - valuing the company at £78.5m.

Crucially, they have bought shares or had promises of support from existing shareholders equivalent to almost 40% of the total shareholding. This would effectively block any attempt by Severn Trent to get the necessary 75% needed at the EGM to take over Dee Valley.

Ancala has pledged to maintain Dee Valley as a distinct firm with a Wrexham base.

Leanne Wood speaks up for Dee Valley Water workers

‘Welsh water services should be run from Wales, for Wales, and not from Coventry’ – Leanne Wood

First Minister Carwyn Jones today admitted that the Welsh Government had not even contacted Dee Valley Water over the planned takeover of the Welsh firm by Severn Trent.

During questions by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, who described the takeover as “a huge issue”, he said the Government was planning to write to the firm.

Leanne Wood also questioned him on jobs and the local economy, which she said would suffer greatly if the takeover went ahead: “The proposed takeover raises serious questions about the future of our natural resources. Our resources, which should be benefiting people in this country, are already being bought and sold as we speak. Has the First Minister considered what impact this takeover bid could have on the water industry in Wales, bearing in mind the competitive model being pushed in England that has been rejected here?
  “Will he join me by making a clear statement today that Welsh water services should be run from Wales, for Wales, and not from Coventry for a bunch of multinational shareholders?”

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said: “I’m astounded at the complacency of the Welsh Government on this matter. It’s a big issue here in the North-east in terms of jobs and the knock-on effects for local suppliers but there’s a bigger picture that could affect the whole of Wales. Why hasn’t it registered with the First Minister, who has two local AMs in his cabinet?

“I’ll continue to work with concerned staff and customers, who have contacted me to express their fears about the loss of service, because Dee Valley Water is a successful local company with 150 years of history behind it. The Welsh Government is failing this part of Wales and Dee Valley workers and consumers deserve far better leadership. Thankfully, that’s what they’re getting from Leanne Wood in the Assembly.”

Watch the two-minute clip of Leanne Wood questioning the First Minister here.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Dee Valley takeover threatens Welsh Water too

This is not a local storm in a teacup. It has very far-reaching consequences. 

The proposed takeover of Dee Valley Water by Severn Trent raises serious questions about our most precious natural resource.

Local workers, many of whom will lose their jobs if the planned takeover goes ahead, have started this petition, which deserves our support.

It's a well-reasoned argument for Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water to take over the Wrexham-based company and highlights the firm's Welsh identity, something that would be completely lost if Severn-Trent had their way.

What's less understood is that Dee Valley Water's book value is around £20m, so why is Severn-Trent bidding £78m for it?

The bigger picture is murky.

At present, Dwr Cymru effectively has a monopoly on water services in the parts of Wales it serves. Severn-Trent, although based in Coventy, takes much of its water from mid Wales and has geographic control of much of that area.

In England, there are proposals by OFWAT to open up the water market. The move would allow consumers to buy their water from any number of water companies, as we now do with electricity and gas. It's unlikely to provide any benefits to customers but will allow water companies to grow.

The situation in Wales is different because Dwr Cymru is a not-for-shareholder-profit firm, unlike companies such as Severn-Trent. Its model pays any dividends to customers - the Welsh people - rather than shareholders.

Also, and this is critical to the Dee Valley story, there is no political appetite for opening up the market here in Wales. So an aggressively expansionist company like Dee Valley is looking to muscle into Wales and chooses to take over a small company at almost four times the book value.

Crucially in Severn Trent's offer is its commitment to merge Dee Valley with its existing Welsh business:
"Severn Trent intends to maintain a separate Welsh licence for Dee Valley and, subject to regulatory approval, intends that the whole of Severn Trent’s business in Wales will be regulated under Welsh Government Policy."

It is our belief that Severn Trent is seeking to build up a Welsh subsidiary that can challenge Dwr Cymru. This would mean that all the water services of Wales would be run from Coventry, as is currently being proposed in this takeover of Dee Valley.

The stakes are very high. Anyone concerned about who runs the Welsh water industry, about jobs and expertise in our communities and ownership of our most precious natural resource should join the campaign to halt Severn Trent's takeover of Dee Valley Water.

Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards MP raised concerns about the unequal relationship between Wales and England regarding our water three years ago:
"Full territorial integrity should be recognised, and it should be for the people of Wales to decide what happens to the water of Wales through our democratic institution, the National Assembly for Wales. It is therefore crucial that full control of water is devolved to Wales. It is a continuing disgrace that the Labour Government cynically blocked full devolution of water policy in the Government of Wales Act 2006, leaving the power of veto with London Ministers.

"Full control over water would finally end the grossly unfair system enshrined in the Water Act 1973, and perpetuated by the 2006 Act, in which water was lent to Severn Trent Water at a scandalously low rate of 5p a year for 999 years and the Secretary of State for Wales was empowered to overrule the National Assembly for Wales on matters of Welsh water supplies to England."
Now, more than ever, we need to have Welsh control over Welsh water.

UPDATE: Please sign the workers' petition.

Picture: Protest against the drowning of Welsh valleys in the 1960s. This has been an emotive subject for half a century and more.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Wrexham Council pays out £2.1m on consultants - to save money!

Wrexham Council has paid out more than £2.1m to Price Waterhouse Cooper over the past two years - a notorious consultancy company that is advising several council on how to make cuts. Clever.

It puts into context the pitifully small amounts of money saved by closing various councils services:

Plas Madoc Leisure Centre
Nant Silyn old people's home
Community centres
Day care in Plas yn Rhos and Caia
Reduced bin collection

The contract with PWC was signed by Labour. Now Labour is in opposition in the council, it is now criticising the spending on PWC and other consultants.

 Labour is also hoping that people will forget their role in wrecking Wrexham. They also hope that the people will forget that they voted to close Plas Madoc Leisure Centre. Good luck with that bit of re-writing history - the people who fought that decision and ensured the centre re-opened under community control know the truth.

We have good memories.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Takeover of Dee Valley Water by Severn Trent challenged

Water services in Wales are best delivered here in Wales - 
not from Coventry

Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd has urged OFWAT, the water regulator, to investigate the proposed takeover of Dee Valley Water by Severn Trent Water.
Mr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru's North Wales Assembly Member, said:
"This proposed takeover raises several serious questions regarding jobs and services in north Wales. It has happened without consultation with the workforce, local community representatives and flies in the face of recent UK Government claims about handing over powers on water back to Wales.
"The specific issues that Severn Trent have to answer are:
- guarantees that the jobs of the 190 Dee Valley Water employees will be maintained here in north Wales and not re-located to West Midlands or elsewhere.
- guarantees to local companies such as Huws Gray, Dependable Concrete, Griffiths Tool Hire and Eco-Readymix, who are part of Dee Valley Water's existing supply chain to service their operational activity in the Wrexham and Chester areas.
- guarantees about the pensions of existing employees
- assurances about the Living Wage. Dee Valley Water is an accredited Living Wage employee whereas Severn Trent is not.
"Dee Valley Water is a Welsh company with a long history going back to 1864 when it was founded in Wrexham and it has deep roots in the local area. It it an important part of the community in terms of its sponsorship and engagement as well as providing a service and good employment.
"I am writing to OFWAT to investigate the takeover proposal and also contacting Severn Trent about the concerns raised by Dee Valley workers in the wake of this news. It's a very worrying development."

UPDATE: Severn Valley's takeover document makes it clear that:

- Dee Valley will be delisted and closed as a separate entity
- office workers will be expected to transfer to other Severn-Trent offices, the nearest of which is Shrewsbury
- procurement will be managed centrally, which means that local suppliers will lose out.

The takeover has been recommended by the board of directors to DVW's shareholders, the largest of which are pension firms with no local links. An EGM will be held in December. It's necessary for 75% of shareholders present on the day to vote the takeover through.

Llyr Gruffydd said:
"Dee Valley Water covers parts of Wrexham, Denbighshire and Flintshire as well as Chester and it's vital that the good customer service for which it's renowned is not lost.
"The takeover document makes it clear that local suppliers will lose out under Severn-Trent's procurement policy and it's unclear what the future holds for existing staff. This is not acceptable and Plaid Cymru locally and nationally will be making that clear to both companies. Water services in Wales are best delivered here in Wales - not from Coventry."

FURTHER UPDATE: We have been told that the Extraordinary General Meeting takes place on December 21st.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Welsh water firm sold down the river

Dee Valley Water, which supplies about 260,000 customers in north-east Wales and Cheshire, has been sold to Severn Trent for £78.5m.

The company has now suspended talks on an alternative takeover bid with the investment firm Ancala, which had bid roughly £71.3m.

There's a certain logic in seeing this huge company swallow a small local firm (it employs about 190 people) that's been profitable and reasonably efficient in supplying homes to this area for a century in various guises.

It was formed in 1864 as the Wrexham Waterworks company and became the Wrexham and East Denbighshire Waterworks Company in 1882. It continues to have a large presence at Pentrebychan. It turned over a profit of £6.6m last year on a £22m turnover. 

Crucially, the average water bill (excluding sewerage, which is the remit of Dwr Cymru in this part of the country) for Dee Valley Water is £145 a year. In Severn Trent it's £172. Will Wrexham consumers be expected to pay that sort of price for our own water?

It's also worth noting that Severn-Trent's chief exec gets £2.097m a year while Dee Valley's gets £135,000. But Dee Valley is an accredited Living Wage employee. Severn Trent is not.

Severn Trent makes much of its £500m annual profits from selling on water it distributes from reservoirs in Wales to customers in England.


Its reservoirs in mid Wales (including the Elan Valley) are a huge natural resource serving shareholders rather than the people of Wales.

 Welsh water should be in the hands of the people of Wales and used for public good not private greed. Let's have public control of our water rather than seeing foreign multinationals profit from it.

 In the interim we should demand that OFWAT, the water regulator, ensures that:

• Jobs and local services remain in Wales rather than be centralised in Birmingham

• Bills do not increase to match those in the rest of Severn Trent

• Living Wage status for Dee Valley workers is maintained

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Half of benefit sanctions cases in Wrexham fail

Too many relying on foodbanks because claimants targeted – Plaid AM

Half the sanctions cases against benefit claimants in Wrexham are reversed or cancelled, research by Plaid Cymru has found.

The study found that benefits were stopped in just 45% of cases between 2012-2015, with 50% of cases either being successfully appealed or cancelled due to errors. A small minority of 5% were reserved because the claimant was no longer claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA).

The number of sanctions being overturned, 3278 out of a total of 6549, has caused concern for the area’s Plaid Cymru regional AM Llyr Gruffydd.

He said: “This relates to the Job Seekers’ Allowance as the Department of Work and Pensions has not released similar data on other benefits. However it paints a worrying picture of how sanctions – i.e. stopping benefits – can be applied without good cause and sometimes against people who are vulnerable and unable to represent themselves.

“These are the people who are then left high and dry, needing food banks,  emergency loans or even loan sharks to tide them over. If more than half the cases end up without sanctions being applied it raises questions about the accuracy of the original decision.”

A Parliamentary Select Committee reviewed the benefits sanctions system and heard evidence from those working in the system and from leading academics.

Dr David Webster, of the University of Glasgow, speaking to the Select Committee stated:

“What the DWP is doing is sanctioning people willy and nilly for not doing arbitrarily-imposed things. They say you have to apply for 30 jobs in a fortnight and you only apply for 29 and they sanction you. This is completely absurd.”

He added that it was "not necessary to run a system on the assumption that most people do not want to work". There was no evidence that compelling claimants to perform arbitrary tasks (such as applying for target numbers of jobs each week) as a condition of receiving unemployment benefit (on the assumption they would otherwise be cheating the system) helped them get jobs.

The assertion was backed up by Kirsty McHugh, chief executive for the Employment Related Services Association (Ersa), which represents employers in the sector:

“For a minority of people, receiving a sanction can be the wake-up call they need to help them move into work. However, for the vast majority of jobseekers, sanctions are more likely to hinder their journey into employment.”

Mr Gruffydd added: “There’s plenty of evidence of people losing all their benefits at a stroke because of arbitrary sanctions. JobCentre staff have spoken out about being given targets in terms of sanctions and I’m concerned that the most vulnerable could be bearing the brunt of these. They are the easiest to sanction and are likely to have the least resources and support to fight back. Of course there’s a minority abusing the system but that does not excuse the DWP targeting the unemployed and leaving them destitute.”

• North Wales stats
36905 sanctions TOTAL                   100%

17377 sanctions applied                   47.1%

10370 sanctions not applied            28.1%
 7226 sanctions cancelled                19.5% = 47.6%

1932 sanctions reserved                   5.2%

Saturday, 5 November 2016

500 march to save Wrexham's fire engine

More than 500 people marched to save Wrexham's second fire engine on Saturday (5 November) in one of the biggest protests the town has seen in years.

The march, which featured the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) engine and was led by the Cambria Band, was applauded by passers-by in the street. Many carried home-made placards and banners in support of the firefighters who face losing their jobs.

One of Wrexham's two whole-time fire engines is under threat from the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority due to budget cuts. Despite a series of arsons over recent years, Wrexham has been earmarked for the cut.

March organiser and community councillor Marc Jones said: 
"I'd like to thank everyone who came out in the cold weather to support the campaign. It was a very powerful message and I know the firefighters present were very grateful for the community's backing.
 "Both Grant Mayos and Cerith Griffiths of the FBU spoke passionately about the need to maintain this service. People joined the march because they can see for themselves how important the fire service is to our community - many have first-hand experience of both fire engines coming out to attend fires or other incidents.
 "It makes no sense to get rid of this pump now when we have a projected population increase of up to 20%, a super-prison opening in May 2017 and 43% of all north Wales arsons.
 "I also made it clear that we should reject any attempt to play urban areas such as Wrexham against rural areas. Councillors on the Fire Authority who think that getting rid of this fire engine will safeguard rural retained stations are living in cloud cuckoo-land. The second crew provides much needed cover for many rural stations across the region and I would respectfully suggest that they ask fire chiefs how reliant their own counties are for Wrexham's support."

The consultation into this proposal lasts until December 12th, so we have five weeks to persuade the Fire Authority. Please take part in the official questionnaire HERE
and also write with your objections to the NWFRS by writing to the Secretariat:

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


'No extra spending on councillors'

Plaid Cymru candidates in next May's local elections have pledged not to accept Wrexham council iPads at a cost of £583 apiece if elected.

The pledge comes as the council debates whether to buy a package of 55 new iPads for its 52 councillors - three would be "spares" at a total cost of £32,080.

Plaid Cymru's Wrexham chairperson Marc Jones said:

"Wrexham Council is facing further cuts in the next budget round. It is totally inappropriate for councillors to spend on themselves in this way while cutting frontline services such as youth provision. "We're also very aware that there are other issues - such as councils' contributions towards the fire service - that impact hugely on the local community. These are our priorities."

Plaid Cymru has already selected candidates for a third of Wrexham's council wards and last night decided any elected councillors would not take the new iPads. Marc Jones said:
"It's important that councillors have access to information and council papers via the internet. But most people now have their own tablets or laptops they can use at home and in the council chamber. With that in mind, and ongoing financial constraints, it makes no sense to spend extra on duplication like this. If elected our group of councillors will not waste public money on iPads."
Mr Jones added that Plaid Cymru has consistently argued that council finances should be prioritised for frontline services in times of austerity:
"Three years ago we argued that the council mayor should be scrapped - it's cost £400,000 over three years. We also criticised the increase in senior allowances, which means the council leader is on £47,000 and executive board members are on £29,000 a year. These increases also amounted to £100,000 a year.
"When council workers are being made redundant or facing pay freezes, there can be no justification for paying more to councillors."

UPDATE: Council leader Mark Pritchard has responded with a typical attack on the above pledge - misleading and ignoring the main thrust of the story: 

Plaid police chief aims to break cycle of offending

‘65% of boys with fathers in jail offend’ – Arfon Jones

Plaid Cymru’s new North Wales Police Commissioner has set himself a series of challenging targets for his first term in office.

Arfon Jones, a former police inspector who was elected as Plaid Cymru’s first Police and Crime Commissioner with a 90,000-strong vote in May 2016, said his priorities would include tackling substance misuse, domestic abuse, modern slavery and greater transparency and answerability in the police force.

He was speaking at Plaid Cymru’s annual conference in Llangollen, where he revealed his determination to break the cycle of re-offending. Mr Jones said: “65% of boys whose father is in jail offend and children with imprisoned parents are twice as likely to suffer mental health problems and do less well in school.”

Partnership working to reduce re-offending by ensuring that ex-prisoners were successfully re-integrated into society was a priority, he said: “Although not directly a police matter, ensuring that former offenders don’t repeat their previous criminality is essential if we’re going to break the cycle and make our society safer. That also means using our £12m budget for reducing substance misuse across the North as wisely as possible.”

It’s also clear that parents who lose contact with their children after jail are more likely to re-offend. That’s why, he said, he was working with the new prison that opens in Wrexham next year to ensure the best possible support for the families of those in jail.

Mr Jones also said the four commissioners in Wales – two Plaid and two Labour – were united on the need to see criminal justice and policing devolved to Wales: “This has received a positive response from the First Minister and we now want to take matters forward.”

Among challenges for the future, he added, were cyber-crime and child sex exploitation. These were very much linked to technological advances and it was important for the police to move with society in that regard, so that frontline police were able to deal with issues out in the community rather than having to return to the police station to complete paperwork."