Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Plans to cut Wrexham fire engine and 24 jobs branded 'short-sighted stupidity'

Plans to cut a fire engine and 24 firefighters’ jobs in Wrexham have been branded as ‘short-sighted stupidity’ by Plaid Cymru.
 Plaid Cymru’s Wrexham chair Marc Jones said: 
“The Fire Authority’s plan to save £1m by cutting 24 jobs and a fire appliance defies logic. They’ve just spent £15m on a brand new combined station in the town with the ambulance service so what was the strategic thinking behind losing a vital appliance. This makes even less when you consider that the Welsh Government is anticipating a 20% in the borough’s population over the coming years and there’s a huge new prison going to open on the industrial estate in 2017.
 "Both will inevitably mean more work for our fire service. This is short-sighted stupidity.“I’ve been approached by firefighters concerned that, if there’s an incident requiring two appliances at the prison, there will be no cover for the rest of the county. The fire service has a chief fire officer, a deputy and three assistants earning packages worth a combined £600,000 a year – I would rather see a scaling down of the top brass rather than losing valued frontline firefighters.”
Cllr Jones, who chairs Caia Park Community Council, said:
“Wrexham’s fire services are already dealing with 43% of all North Wales arson and a large proportion of the road traffic accidents across the North. As community councillors, we are very aware of the work being done in terms of fire prevention that needs enhancing to pro-actively stop fires, but there will always be a need for a comprehensive emergency service that has the firefighters and appliances available to deal with any incident.”
Cllr Jones called on the Fire Authority to think again before cutting services in the largest town in the North.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Plaid welcomes constructive talks to form stable government in Cardiff Bay

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has welcomed talks today between Plaid Cymru and Labour in Cardiff Bay that should result in ‘stable government’.
He said: “Our door has always been open for discussions and it’s regrettable that Labour didn’t engage with us before the vote for the First Minister, in which Leanne Wood and Carwyn Jones were tied 29-29. Labour has to realise that it does not have a majority and therefore must engage with the other parties to be able to form a government and get legislation passed.
Yesterday Wrexham’s two recently elected local Assembly Members went on the attack saying the First Minister contest was due to ‘ego’ and hammered the party with various comments.
AM Llyr Gruffydd went on to comment: “I’m frankly amazed that Labour’s reaction to the vote was to try to smear Plaid Cymru when their own senior members had been talking to UKIP about a possible deal to form a government. There has been a certain arrogance about their attitude that demonstrates why they lost so many votes in the recent election.
“They must remember that they are a party supported by only a third of voters, although they managed to scrape almost half the seats. Even with the support of the lone Liberal Democrat, they do not have a majority and the sooner they realise that they have to sit down and discuss areas where we can agree on policy commitments, the better.
“Just to clarify, there have been no deals between Plaid, UKIP and the Tories and we would not go into coalition with them. Labour has admitted that it has had negotiations with UKIP’s Nathan Gill.
“In the meantime we’ve seen AMs rushing to the press desperately trying to blame Plaid for everything from the steel crisis to ‘betraying vulnerable people’. Plaid Cymru has been consistent in urging Welsh Government intervention in the steel crisis from January onwards – when Carwyn Jones was sitting on his hands saying ‘we can’t do anything’.
“Carwyn Jones is currently still the First Minister and this delay is not preventing him from intervening in the steel industry. It’s time some of our local Labour representatives grew up rather than assuming they have a divine right to rule, no matter what the electorate decide.”
Talks are due to be ongoing this afternoon between Plaid Cymru and Labour, for the first time described as ‘formal’. The BBC are reporting Carwyn Jones ‘has discussed appointing Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams as a cabinet minister’ as the horse trading goes on to find a solution to the deadlock.
If the problem persists Wales could see ballot boxes reappearing once again for the Assembly.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Groves - a missed opportunity to protect our heritage

Tomorrow night, campaigners to preserve our heritage will meet in St Margaret's Church, Rhosddu, at 7.30pm to hear what we can do to save important buildings and stop our town being wrecked.The focus will naturally be on the Groves School building, which the council decided to demolish on January 12 without consultation or notice.

Without the passionate and intelligent campaigning of the Save our Heritage group, the Groves School building would be rubble by now. SoH has forced the council to await a decision on listing by CADW, something which is imminent.

But it's also worth reminding ourselves of a missed opportunity in the Assembly just a month after the demolition announcement.

The Historic Environment Bill was passed on February 9th to allow protection for listed buildings. But opposition parties, including Plaid Cymru, argued that the Bill didn't go far enough in protecting buildings that weren't listed but were of local importance. The bill had guidelines for buildings not listed but these aren't statutory, as we wanted and the Committee scrutinising the Bill recommended “We recommend that the Bill is amended to require local authorities to prepare and maintain lists of historic assets of special local interest and that the Deputy Minister brings forward an amendment at Stage 2 to give effect to this.” 

All the opposition parties supported making the local lists statutory but Labour voted against and, as such, it was rejected.

The minister in charge of the environment and piloting the bill through the Assembly was Clwyd South AM Ken Skates. He said this during the debate:

“The amendments specify that the register would be a material consideration in planning determinations. Such an explicit statement would sit awkwardly in planning legislation, let alone in a Bill that is concerned with the historic environment. Contrary to the aims of the recent Planning (Wales) Act 2015, these amendments would certainly increase complexity in the planning system. They would also place additional demands on the capacity and resources of local authorities. The amendments would permit the public to nominate grounds for inclusion on the local register, which could easily be used to frustrate legitimate development. I also fear that systems that are already in place to manage grounds of local importance—for example, town and village green and disposal of playing fields regulations—could be undermined by these amendments.”

So there we have it. The opposition parties wanted to strengthen the protection for our historic heritage and the minister refused to allow local communities to nominate buildings for inclusion on a local heritage register. Here's what Plaid Cymru's heritage spokesperson Bethan Jenkins AM said: 

I think it is a missed opportunity for a radical change in the sector. If you want to put a press release out saying ‘We’ve completed all our laws this term’; well, I’d rather have effective and well-developed laws as opposed to just having a piece of paper. I will tell you that we will be back here - even if it’s not me, there will be Assembly Members back here looking at this issue again because it was not prioritised within Welsh Government as it should have been, and you should have fought for that, Minister.”