Sunday, 28 February 2016

Crisis? What crisis?! - Labour in denial over GP problems in Wales

Seventeen years of Labour rule in Wales have seen a Government increasingly out of touch with reality. Nowhere is the more evident than in health and in particular in the North, where the NHS desperately needs political leadership, ambition and vision.

Instead we have had a First Minister in denial that there's any kind of crisis. Unfortunately for Carwyn Jones, his comments came on the same day as two leading doctors described the situation as a “ticking time bomb” and on a “knife edge”.

Dr Phil White, Secretary of North Wales Local Medical Committee, said immediate action needed to be taken to ensure patients did not suffer.

He was backed up by Dr Sara Bodey, vice chair of North Wales local medical committees, who said the profession was at breaking point due to staffing pressures.
Last week saw 7,500 patients were left without access to a doctor after Treflan Surgery in Pwllheli was forced to turn away people due to a shortage of doctors.


This is on top of a series of other surgeries facing the same dilemma in Hightown (Wrexham), Rhuddlan, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Prestatyn.

Rebecca Payne, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) in Wales, said there is a workforce crisis across the entire country due to growing difficulties in recruiting and retaining doctors. She said she was “baffled” by comments made by Jones, who claimed he was not aware of any patients suffering as a result of a lack of GPs in the north. 
The Royal College claims more than 400 full-time equivalent GPs are needed in Wales by 2020 to deal with the “perfect storm” of fewer doctors and an ageing population .

This weekend saw another join the list. The Penymaes practice in Summerhill, Wrexham, announce it will be unable to offer a service after September due to a shortage of doctors. 

Cllr Arfon Jones, who represents the area and is registered at the Penymaes practice, said: 

"This surgery is very busy with 8,000 registered, it is a worrying time for all the patients and I have already been contacted by many expressing their concerns. As chair of the local Community Health Council I will be raising my concerns with the Health Board and hoping that they will deal with this crisis much more effectively than they dealt with a similar crisis at Beechley Road surgery.  "It just shows how out of touch the Labour Government in Cardiff are when the First Minister Carwyn Jones claimed recently that there is no crisis in GP services in North Wales."

Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrexham, said: 
"This is the latest GP surgery closure announced and it highlights the fact that we need to train and recruit new doctors urgently. A Plaid Cymru government would do just that to make our NHS better here in Wrexham and across Wales. "it further reinforces the failure if the current Labour Government to deal with our current GP crisis, they're in denial."
Plaid Cymru has had a long-standing policy of training and recruiting 1,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses to meet demand and improve our NHS. We recognise, along with the health professionals, there is a crisis and we have an ambitious but credible plan to address that over 10 years. 

The choice is simple - continue with a government in denial or choose one with a plan to make the NHS better.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

11,000 new homes will mean urban sprawl on greenfield sites

Playing fields, sports pitches and agricultural land all face the axe under new LDP plan

Plans to build huge sprawling housing estates on greenfield sites on the outskirts of Wrexham should be opposed by anyone who cares about their local community.

Wrexham Council's proposed Local Development Plan features plans to build 1,000 homes a year for the next 12 years, including two huge sites on the Ruthin Road and the rugby club fields. This is the second LDP that the council is putting forward after the first one, which avoided allocating greenfield sites for housing, was rejected by the Welsh Government's Planning Inspectorate.

This level of development isn't based on any natural population movement or natural growth, it's all artificial in terms of planned population transfer, one-off influxes or market driven in terms of developers who've seen opportunities to make a quick buck and bugger the consequences.

We should also remember that there has been an active strategy by certain politicians to attract inward migration to Wrexham as well, via the Mersey-Dee Alliance and the West Cheshire Plan.

Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrexham, said:

“I was on Wrexham Council’s Planning Policy Panel that put forward the original LDP in 2012. That plan allocated brownfield sites for about 7,700 new homes over a 16-year period to meet demand and made provision for affordable housing. However this was rejected by the Welsh Government’s Planning Inspectorate, who insisted on thousands more homes based on the Government’s population projections, which we believe are totally flawed and based on past unsustainable growth.

“Wrexham saw very rapid growth in the early 2000s due to a unique set of circumstances – firstly, there was an influx of students due to creating Glyndwr University, secondly, migrant workers from the East European states gained the right to come to work in the UK from 2002 and thirdly the council in Cheshire had very tight restrictions on housing developments around Chester’s greenbelt. This unique combination saw house prices soar in Wrexham due to demand and developers built as many as 1,000 homes in two of those boom years.

“That has since dropped to a trickle due to the recession but this plan anticipates building 11,715 new homes -  an annual building programme of 1,000 homes a year for more than a decade from now until 2028. It’s madness because it does not take into account the existing pressures on our schools, health services and other infrastructure such as roads and public transport. GP surgeries and A&E are already overloaded, our schools are full to bursting and the A483 is regularly gridlocked.

“Issues such as affordability have been ignored and the real danger is that we create a series of commuter estates with quick access to the by-pass that just adds to traffic congestion.“Perhaps the biggest concerns I have are for the two new housing sprawls being planned for Lower Berse Farm on the Ruthin Road and the rugby club/Morgan Llwyd playing fields. When people realise the scale of what is being planned – 1500 homes on one and 1260 on the other - I believe they will be outraged. The idea of Tarmacing over sporting and school playing fields at a time when we’re struggling to accommodate existing pupil numbers is particularly alarming.

“I hope we will see a united front to oppose these enormous new estates and challenge the Welsh Government to re-think its population projections, which are the basis for these sprawling housing developments. I want to see a positive alternative to this that sees communities grow more organically and ensures we have the services in those communities that can cope with any increase in population.”

Labour politicians such as Ken Skates and Susan Elan Jones have enthusiastically backed these housing proposals. Lesley Griffiths AM has tried to have her cake and eat it... she's a minister in a government that is forcing these additional houses on Wrexham but she's also come out publicly against plans for a 300+ housing development in Llay. 

Today, we're launching a petition to oppose building huge estates on greenfield sites. Please sign, share and speak out against this terrible plan: 

The petition will be fed into the ongoing consultation about the LDP, which lasts until April 1st. Have your say on any of the proposed sites by contacting planning@wrexham.gov.uk

Monday, 8 February 2016

Community challenges anti-social behaviour in public meeting on arson

A victim of arson and anti-social behaviour stood up and challenged his community to "stand up against evil".

Peter, who has lived in Pentre Gwyn on the outskirts of Wrexham for the past 10 years, had his car set on fire in November and his house attacked twice in quick succession.

He came to tonight's public meeting to address community concerns about anti-social behaviour and arson in the area. He and others present made clear that they blamed a small number of individual youths, some of whom were present at the meeting, for the anti-social behaviour. Yes, there was a lot of finger pointing as tensions spilled over at times.

Apart from Peter's dignified challenge - in which he outlined the "hell" his family had suffered over the past few months and the fear among his elderly neighbours - the meeting offered much heat and little light.

Acting Inspector Steve Owens of Wrexham Police said there had been 55 arsons in Caia Park last year with 17 of those in Whitegate ward (which included Pentre Gwyn). Many had taken place in the last six months. He admitted the police had failed to win the trust of the community, who saw little point in phoning 101 when there had been a slow or no response to previous calls. There had been just 51 calls last year from the estate regarding anti-social behaviour.

As a result of this breakdown, there was no police intelligence to deal with the problem although everyone attending the meeting was aware who was behind the problems being caused on the estate.

There was a real missed opportunity tonight to regain the trust of people who feel the council, police and other services were failing them. Even reports of street lights being out had been ignored.

The tiny proportion of anti-social youths causing the problem are finally being dealt with - pressure from the police on their private landlord means they are being evicted. That's a relief for the immediate community that was being terrorised but the problem is just being displaced and the real challenge for the multitude of professional agencies that exist in places like Caia Park is how to (a) prevent this kind of behaviour happening by addressing the frustrations of many teenage kids and (b) how to catch the criminals once they go beyond bad behaviour into criminality.

It won't be achieved by relying on official agencies - there were at least six different services and groups in attendance tonight who have all failed in different ways to deal with the problem.
 It will have to come from the community itself. From people like Peter and others who stood up and were counted tonight.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Build a multi-storey car park for Wrexham Maelor hospital



A new multi-storey car park should be built to cope with future demand at the Wrexham Maelor hospital, a Plaid Cymru candidate has said.

Councillor Carrie Harper, who is Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrexham, welcomed news that the health board was conducting a review of parking due to pressures for staff, outpatients and visitors caused by a lack of parking places at the hospital.

She said:
"The parking at the hospital seems to be getting worse and, if outpatients are late for appointments, then that's a cost for the health board. So too is any delay for doctors or nurses and other health workers unable to find a parking place.
"Public transport directly to the hospital isn't great and it serves a wide area stretching all the way down to Barmouth, so it's inevitable that many visitors will be in cars.
"In addition, the fast growth in population locally has put an enormous strain on our health service and future population growth is being forecast at more than 3,000 a year for the borough. This is going to stretch hospital services even further, including parking.
"It therefore makes sense to start planning now and that's why I think the health board should consider developing a multi-storey car park similar to the one recently opened at Leicester Hospital. It's not an ideal situation by any means but the sooner the problem is addressed the quicker the solution can be found.
"The new overflow parking area seems like an ideal spot for such a multi-storey car park and I hope we see action soon."

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

‘Bring football home’ with new museum for Wrexham

Plaid Cymru calls to celebrate the beautiful game in this historic year for Welsh football


A short debate today in the Senedd has heard Llyr Gruffydd AM talk of an ambitious campaign to “bring football home” to its spiritual birthplace in Wrexham.

Plaid Cymru - The Party Of Wales is proposing that a Welsh National Football Museum be developed in Wrexham, the home of Welsh football.

Mr Gruffydd said: 
“There’s a clear logic to this if you look at the facts. Wrexham is where the first international match was played in Wales, where the oldest surviving international ground in the world – the Racecourse - is located and where the Football Association of Wales was formed 140 years ago this week in the Wynnstay Hotel. It is also home to Wrexham AFC, one of the world’s oldest football clubs along with nearby Cefn Druids and Chirk.”

Mr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, added: 
“I think it’s important to stress that Wales has a number of National Museums and Galleries but none of them are in the north-east. Creating a national football museum, similar to those in Manchester and Glasgow, would help redress that balance and emphasise the key role that the north-east and Wrexham specifically has had in the development of the game and in Wales more generally.
“We already have a basis for the museum because the local council has a very comprehensive footballing archive stored in the town’s museum and that would be an important element to moving the project forward.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring together various elements of our footballing past together at a time when the future of Welsh football has never been brighter. It’s clear from the positive response so far that it would also be a welcome boost for the town, attracting new visitors, creating work and providing an educational facility for youngsters.”

The campaign has already won the support of politicians of all colours, the Wrexham Supporters’ Trust and the aim of this broad campaign is to bring together all interested parties such as the Football Association of Wales, Wrexham AFC, Wrexham Council, the Welsh Government and, most importantly, football fans.

Mr Gruffydd added: 
“With Wales qualifying for the European Championships in 2016, there’s never been a better time to celebrate our part in developing the Beautiful Game. We hope that football fans from across Wales and beyond will also support the campaign by joining our Facebook page or following us on Twitter.”

The next step is to set up a steering committee to build on that broad support, to develop a business plan that can be put in place to secure funding to build and maintain the museum – as happened with the English national football museum in Manchester.

UPDATE: The minister for culture has confirmed the National Museum will investigate the idea. Mr Gruffydd said: “I’m delighted that we’ve had cross-party support in the Senedd for my statement of opinion calling for the football museum to be located in Wrexham. I also welcome the response to my short debate from the minister, who has made it clear that he supports the idea.”

You can follow the campaign on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/190192674655215/ or on Twitter #bringfootballhome.