Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Our emergency services are stretched to breaking point

Wrexham ambulance crews are being called to deal with emergencies in Flintshire 4,300 times a year - that's 12 callouts a day.

Over the past decade, cuts to our police, fire and ambulance services have caused cutbacks in the services.

Since 2008, public spending cuts imposed by successive Labour, Tory/Lib Dem and now Tory governments in London have led to a reduction in frontline services. These were, we were told, necessary to balance the books as the UK Government looked for savings after bailing out the bankers in the wake of the 2007-8 crash.

Here's where we are today locally:

Plaid Cymru is proud to have supported firefighters in Wrexham and led to public campaign to retain 24 firefighters and one of our two whole-time fire appliances. 
 Thousands signed petitions, marched and protested against the proposal because of the undue risk it would have posed for people - especially with the added problem of arson attacks and a new prison on our doorstep.
 The campaign was won because the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority failed to persuade the public and, crucially, their own members that this was a cut that could be justified.
 But the threat to our services hasn't gone away. The NWFRA is still looking for cuts and we must continue to argue the case both locally and centrally for proper funding for our emergency services.

Police services have been cut drastically in the past 10 years with fewer and fewer frontline police officer available to deal with problems we face in the town. In 2008 there were five police officers for an area such as Caia Park - one for each ward. Today there are just two with some back-up from PCSOs.
 This cut in frontline services is due to inadequate funding from Westminster, which still holds the purse strings on Welsh policing and criminal justice.

For years our ambulance services have been over-stretched due to problems with beds not being available in our district general hospitals and the closure of community hospitals. That's led to many ambulance crews being unavoidably detained outside Emergency Departments as hospital management tries to find spare beds for patients.
 Add to this a plan by neighbouring Flintshire to reduce night-time cover and you have a recipe for further disaster.
 Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has questioned why Flintshire’s night-time ambulance cover is being cut by 50% on Monday nights and by 25% on other nights when it already has the worst response rate to red callouts in north Wales.
The information is revealed in a Freedom of Information request by the Assembly Member after Welsh Ambulance Service Trust managers denied a plan to reduce night-time cover in the county from April. That claim was made after Mr Gruffydd first raised concerns made to him by ambulance crews.
 The FOI shows that, in addition to answering just 63% of red callouts within the target eight minutes, crews from outside the county have been called out to Flintshire 8000 times in the past year. That amounts to more than four in 10 of the total calls made to the ambulance service in Flintshire.
Analysis of figures show that crews from outside Flintshire are dealing with 22 calls a day from Flintshire – a total of 8,081 in 2016. More than half of those were crews from Wrexham – who dealt with 4,308 calls in a year – followed by Denbighshire’s crews with 2,441.
Mr Gruffydd said: 
“This new information raises new concerns. It confirms that the Trust plans to reduce cover by a half on Monday nights and a quarter for five other nights from next month. I’d like to hear from the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust why they consider cover to be sufficient in Flintshire when they are so over-stretched that crews from surrounding areas and as far afield as Anglesey are having to come to the county to deal with 42% of all calls.“This clearly shows that there is a capacity problem in Flintshire itself as it is drawing on services in neighbouring counties and this, in turn, has a knock-on effect with crews in Denbighshire and Wrexham bearing the brunt. With that in mind, I’m hoping WAST can provide a simple explanation as to why night-time services are being cut in Flintshire rather than playing with words as they did last time.”
The impact of this on ambulance services in Wrexham is becoming acute. If ambulance crews are attending an average of 12 calls a day in Flintshire, that's 12 calls they can't respond to in good time in Wrexham.

Financial pressures on all our emergency services are driving a cuts agenda that is leading to a poorer service and all three working at - or beyond - capacity. It's unsustainable and the Tories have no intention of stopping their crusade to destroy our public services with their salami slicing of public funds.

Wales deserves better - we need to control our own budgets and invest in our most important public services.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Labour defector exposes "myth busters", cuts and lies

'Labour ran council in alliance with the Tories'

Labour's latest leaflet being distributed around Wrexham is boldly entitled "Myth busters". The main myth is that it doesn't run Wrexham Council and hasn't done since 2014 when half its group of councillors jumped ship and joined the independent/Tory coalition now running the council.

Labour's vain attempt to wash its hands of all responsibility for the various problems Wrexham faces is undermined by one of those defectors, Gwersyllt S & E Councillor Dave Griffiths.

In a letter to the Wrexham Leader on 21 March 2017 he takes issue with the "myth busters" leaflet.

Now Dave is an experienced former Labour councillor and ex-mayor, someone who was on the executive board from 2012-4. He knows what was going on.

His first statement of fact is that Labour was in an alliance with the Tories between 2012-14. So much for Labour demonising the Tory/independent coalition that currently runs the council... they were in an informal coalition with the same Tories for two years with Cllr Hugh Jones (Tory, Rossett) serving on the Executive Board.

Labour’s short spell in power was a disaster – they ignored public opinion, closed Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, numerous community centres and other local facilities and accepted pay rises and the undemocratic cabinet system. Little wonder they lost power amid huge internal wranglings. Again, Dave exposes their re-writing of history in his damning letter.

Far from opposing pay rises for councillors at a time of cuts, Labour went along with it.

The final myth is that Labour is opposed to the proposed Arts Hub. What it is trying to do in its latest leaflet is ride a wave of populist anti-council resentment and opportunistically claiming to oppose the new arts centre proposed for the People's Market.

Labour’s leaflet amounts to “don’t blame us, we were only in power for two years”. Labour in Wrexham is as divided and divisive as ever, offering nothing locally in terms of making our town a better place to live.There are positive alternatives to the current administration that do not involve a return to past failures.

Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales will be fielding a record number of candidates in the county council elections and has a detailed programme of action if elected. 

If you want to read our local Wrexham manifesto, please go to www.plaidwrecsam.cymru for a copy.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Care home lies idle at a cost of £7,000 to council

Phil Phillips, Plaid Cymru candidate for Offa ward, with Plaid Cymru's leader Leanne Wood outside Nant Silyn.
A former worker at Nant Silyn care home has hit out at Wrexham Council's failure to make use of the building since closing it 13 months ago.

A Freedom of Information request by Plaid Cymru locally reveals that the council has spent £7,000 on the building on rates and security in the past year but that it has had no contact with the local health board to make use of the building.

Phil Phillips used to work at the care home, which also provided much-needed respite care in the community.

He's now a candidate for Plaid Cymru in the Offa ward and said: 
"Nant Silyn was systematically run down by the council over a number of years and, in the 13 months since it's closed, there doesn't seem to have been any move by the council to make use of the buildings.
"Before it closed, the council said it was in discussion with Betsi Cadwaladr health board to see what use could be made of the buildings, which have been modernised and could provide intermediate care in the community. I'm shocked and disappointed that no discussions have taken place since then."

He added: 
"Since it closed it's lain empty and unused. It's become a magnet for anti-social elements who have attempted to break in. The council needs to make use of its assets and this is a property that is lying idle, costing the council money. I would ask the council what are its plans for Nant Silyn and why isn't it talking to Betsi about making use of this facility?"

Plaid Cymru campaigned against the closure of the home, the last one run by Wrexham Council, and its council manifesto calls for the re-opening of the centre to meet health and social care needs in the borough. 

Read our manifesto in full at www.plaidwrecsam.cymru

Monday, 20 March 2017

People power saves Wrexham fire engine

People power looks to have saved one of Wrexham's two whole-time fire engines from the chop.

A decision by the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority today in Wrexham to approve a plan that would have included cuts to frontline services was amended by Cllr Paul Pemberton to specifically dismiss any proposal to cut the Wrexham pump. The amendment carried 8-4.

Some interpret that as a temporary victory and it's perfectly possible for a new fire authority after the May elections to decide that frontline cuts will have to be made to balance the budget. However this decision, taken after heavy lobbying and mass protests, stops the planned cuts for now.

Plaid Cymru Wrexham chair Marc Jones, who led the Save our Services campaign, said: 

"This is a fantastic victory for people power in Wrexham. Against the odds, the Fire and Rescue Authority has seen sense and decided not to press ahead with plans to cut one of our two fire engines in the coming years. "Despite claims that the plan to cut one of Wrexham's fire engines was not on the agenda, voting through the plan as it was would have meant agreeing in principle to just that. I'm grateful to Cllr Paul Pemberton for pushing through the amendment that struck out the plan for spending cuts on frontline services and to everyone who voted the right way on the day. More than anything, I'm grateful to the people of Wrexham who backed our firefighters and marched, protested and signed petitions in their thousands to oppose this plan."A new fire authority will be appointed after the elections in May and this issue might come up again. But the new authority will know the strength of feeling and will have to look at other options."

• Pictured: Protesters outside the Guildhall in advance of the meeting, including members of the Fire Brigade Union and Plaid Cymru. Ten of Plaid Cymru's council election candidates were present at the protest as they have been all along the way. 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Celebrating St David's Day in Wrexham

It was great to see local footballers Robbie Evans and Leo Smith join the 1,000-strong parade round town this afternoon on behalf of Wrexham AFC.
 Elin Fflur sang an impromptu Ar Lan y Môr and the Cambria Band led with their customary style and effectiveness.
 Plaid Cymru attended to support, as we have every year, and help a street stall to hand out information, balloons and stickers. We even got a Miss Teenage Wales to help us!