Monday, 27 February 2017

'Scrap plan to cut firefighters jobs in Wrexham' - Plaid AM

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has called on the North Wales Fire Authority to scrap plans to cut a whole-time fire engine and 24 firefighters’ jobs in Wrexham in the light of ongoing arson attacks and an increased workload.

Mr Gruffydd said the “epidemic” of deliberate fires in the area couples with news that the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service would face greater demands from April 1st due to flood prevention work meant that cutting services was “dangerous and irresponsible”.

Mr Gruffydd added:
“The Government has today announced £1.8m extra funding to ensure Welsh fire services are able to deal with increased demands on their time for flood prevention. That will mean more staff on call during emergencies and to prevent floods happening in the first place.
“Coupled with the alarming epidemic of arsons in the Wrexham area, it would be dangerous and irresponsible to cut one of the town’s two whole-time fire engines and 24 firefighters’ jobs. That amounts to one in six of the entire full-time firefighters in the North.
“If this is allowed to happen, would there be sufficient capacity within the service to deal with a combination of emergencies?
“Firefighters in Wrexham are already dealing with a quarter of all call-outs in the region yet do not have a quarter of the staff or resources. I have great concerns for the service across the North if these cuts are implemented, especially as response times to emergency call-outs are worsening. Now is not the time to cut this vital service.”
A final decision on the proposed cut is being made on March 20th by the North Wales Fire Authority and campaigners will be staging a last-minute lobby outside Wrexham’s Guildhall from 10am to try to reverse the decision.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Plaid candidate speaks out over plan for "new village" on outskirts of Wrexham

Scrap plan for 12,000 homes for Wrexham

Picture: Plaid activists including Sarah Roberts (third from right) with party leader Leanne Wood (centre) and Llyr Gruffudd, Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM, protest at the Ruthin Road site near Ysgol Clywedog.

A plan for 12,000 new homes - including thousands on green fields and playing pitches - should be thrown out, according to Plaid Cymru.

The party's local council candidates have been campaigning against the council's Local Development Plan for the past year after it was announced that some of the new houses would be allowed on two huge new sites off the Ruthin Road and Cefn Road. The latter would see the town's rugby club disappear under a new housing estate of 1,500 homes.

Sarah Roberts, who is spearheading opposition to a 1,260-house development proposed for farmland between the Ruthin Road and Bersham as Plaid Cymru's council candidate for Brynyffynnon ward, said the high level of housing would stretch schools and health services to breaking point.

Ms Roberts, of the Homestead estate, said: 
"The Local Development Plan (LDP) should reflect local needs but it doesn't. It is plan that has been forced on Wrexham by the Cardiff Labour Government, which is insisting that Wrexham Council allows 12,000 new houses to be built over the coming decade to meet population predictions that have been proved inaccurate by the most recent Census.
"There is a need for housing in Wrexham to meet local need and Plaid Cymru aims to meet that need by ensuring that empty homes and brownfield sites are put to work. We will also build the first council houses in the borough in a generation.
"But these huge proposed developments go way beyond what's needed for the area and will mean that local roads, schools and GP practices will be overflowing. That's the problem with this plan - it only looks at how to enable developers to build homes rather than help communities grow organically and successfully. It's a flawed plan that will create huge soulless commuter estates along the A483 rather than boost our existing towns and villages."
Plaid candidates opposing the LDP were joined recently by party leader Leanne Wood on a visit to the Ruthin Road site.

Ms Roberts added: 
"Latest official figures show that the population for Wrexham is static rather than growing at the ridiculous rate forecast by the Labour Government - 20% by 2038. That's more than any county in Wales bar Cardiff and was 10 times higher than Flintshire. It's time to stop concreting over our green fields to make developers a quick buck. This is about the long-term future of our community and environment."

Street stall to launch "The change Wrexham needs" manifesto

Good response to our street stall in Wrexham town centre yesterday, with more than 100 people voting in our snap poll on whether councillors should be getting new iPads while cutting Day Care services for the elderly.
Lots of interest in our Wrexham manifesto, which outlines our vision for the borough's future.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Leanne backs National Football Museum proposal for Wrexham

A national football museum in Wrexham could provide a huge boost for the town and its football club.

That's the view of Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, who visited the town to promote the Party of Wales's candidates for the council elections in May.

She said: 
"I'm fully behind the local campaign to ensure that Wrexham has a National Football Museum. Plaid Cymru came up with the idea because the north-east doesn't have a national museum and it's seen as the home of Welsh football. 
"We're the party for all Wales and that's why I'm backing the campaign. Plaid Cymru secured funding for a feasibility study for the museum in the latest Welsh Government budget and I'm hopeful this can be a catalyst for further development."

Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru's Wrexham chair, said:
"There's growing support for the national football museum. England has one in Manchester, Scotland has one in Glasgow so why not house the Welsh football museum in Wrexham, where it all started?

"We're very keen to work with the fan-owned football club to make sure Wrexham AFC also gets the maximum benefit from such a development. The potential to bring people into the town and into the Racecourse with a new attraction should make it an attractive proposition for everyone involved in making this town a better place. I hope we can continue to work in a collaborative way to make this happen and that will certainly be one of our goals if elected in May."
Mr Jones pointed out that the English national football museum received a £7.5 million Lottery grant to get established and suggested that similar support could be given for a Wrexham-based museum:
"Working in conjunction with the council, football club, FAW and Welsh Government, I'm sure we can make this project a success.
"It would provide a platform for Welsh legends such as Billy Meredith, from Chirk, who features prominently in the Manchester museum because of his achievements as a player and organiser of the first players' union. It would also help emphasise the history surrounding The Racecourse ground as the world's oldest surviving international stadium.

"We're fortunate that Wrexham Council already has an excellent collection of footballing memorabilia and, if this project comes to fruition, hopefully that can go on display to a wider audience. The football club already gives Wrexham a national and international identity and we believe a museum in the town would boost that further."

Pictured with Plaid Cymru's leader Leanne Wood is Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM, together with some of the party's local election candidates for May. 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Youngsters vote for their future

Young students showed their interest in politics with a series of challenging questions to Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood during a school visit to Wrexham.

A-Level and GCSE students at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, Wrexham, discussed Brexit, votes at 16, independence for Wales, public transport and the economy during a lively 60-minute debate with the Plaid Cymru leader.

A show of hands revealed 90% would have voted to remain in Europe, a straw poll reflective of other school meetings Leanne has held throughout Wales.

Students were also invited to take part in a nationwide ballot to gauge support for a number of key issues.

Speaking after the meeting, Leanne Wood said: 

"It's always good to get out and about to different parts of Wales. It's especially good to engage with thoughtful and challenging audiences like this. They had a range of really well-thought-through questions and it was interesting that they'd already been speaking - both for and against - amongst themselves about having the right to vote at 16.
"I'm finding that more and more youngsters are agreeing with this idea as they realise that important decisions about their futures, such as Brexit, are being taken without them having a say. It doesn't wash to say that 16- and 17-year-olds don't know enough about politics - we should be ensuring that they have the chance to learn more about the political system and how they can influence decisions beyond just voting. Politics is about campaigning, lobbying, protesting and marching as well as the ballot box."

Monday, 13 February 2017

Wrexham Council makes 700 staff redundant - but employs 99 agency workers at a cost of £2.2m

Wrexham Council is employing 99 agency workers despite having made nearly 700 staff redundant in the past four years, research by Plaid Cymru locally has revealed.

The Freedom of Information request (see below) also showed that the longest of those temporary workers' contracts was three years and 364 days.

The cost of employing staff through agencies in the past financial year alone was £2.2 million - with just 30% going to agencies based in Wrexham.

Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru's Wrexham chairperson, said:
"Wrexham Council has spent millions on paying redundancy money - £6.7 million in the past four years alone for 700 staff - and then takes on nearly 100 people through agencies.
"There may be a good reason why they should do that in exceptional cases and as a temporary measure but having people on 'temporary' contracts for four years is very odd, to say the least.

"It's also disappointing to see that, yet again, Wrexham Council wants to spend our public money on agencies based in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds with just one Wrexham-based agency in the top 20. One agency - Eden Brown Synergy - with branches in London, Manchester and Leeds picked up £540,000 in total - more than £10,000 a week.
"By contrast, GAP Personnel - the only agency on this list with its HQ based in Wrexham - received just £6,000 of council agency work in the entire year.
"Many of these agencies specialise in social work and social care, yet Wrexham Council closed Nant Silyn care home stating there was no demand.

"I think people facing more and more council cuts are entitled to ask what we're getting for our money from these agency workers that we couldn't get from council employees. We're also entitled to know whether Wrexham Council is looking to expand its use of agency workers and further reduce direct staffing."

Details of the FOI response:

Wrexham County Borough Council

Response/Digest FOI:  6590

Department: Corporate & Customer Services (Human Resources)

HR does hold the information requested.

Re the 694 redundancies/job losses between April 2012 and April 2016 at WCBC:

The reference to 694 redundancies  / job losses has been derived by subtracting the number of staff employed by Wrexham County Borough Council in 2012 (6,503) from the number of staff employed in 2016 (5,809). This information is included on page 17 of the Difficult Decisions consultation document 2017 /18. These figures include posts that remain vacant as a consequence of not only redundancy but natural wastage during this period.

  1. How much was paid out in lump sums to these workers?

The number of voluntary and compulsory redundancies during this period was 522. The lump sums paid to them totalled £6,715,133

2. How many were part-time and full-time?

376 full-time 146 part-time

Of the current staff:

  1. How many are directly employed by WCBC? (please break down into education and non-education)

Wrexham Council employs 5447 members of staff (Headcount). The table below shows the number of employees in each category as requested, however if an employee has an additional post/s in more than one category then they will be counted for the number of times they appear therefore the total below may not correspond with the unique employee headcount above.

Education Department

  1. How many are employed via agencies on temporary contracts to provide council services?

Wrexham Council currently has 99 active agency worker placements as of 19th December 2016.

  1. In what departments are they employed?

Total Placements
Adult Social Care
Children Social Care
Corporate & Customer Services
Environment & Planning
Housing & Economy
Grand Total

  1. What is the longest temporary contract a member of staff (either direct or via an agency) has been on?

The longest temporary contract directly employed by Wrexham Council is 3 years and 364 days. The longest engagement via an employment agency for Wrexham Council is 2 years and 7 months.

     5. Please list the employment agencies used and the amount of money paid to each one in the last financial year.

Sum of Client Net
Coyle Personnel Plc - Harrow
Kenyon Block Consultants - Enfield
Building Careers UK Ltd - North West
Danluker Limited T/A Supply Care - Woodford
Crownwell Recruitment Kent Ltd, T/A Best Recruitment Network - Crownwell Recruitment Kent Ltd, T/A Best Recruitment Network
STR Group Ltd - Portsmouth
4Public Sector Ltd - London
Just One Recruitment & Training Ltd - Liverpool
Entrust Social Care Limited - Entrust Social Care
Deekay Technical Recruitment Limited - Manchester
Nation Recruit Ltd - Prestatyn
Zen Personnel - Boardman House
Triumph Consultants Ltd - Beckenham
Care4Health Ltd (Previously Medical Management T/A Universal Locums) – Hallow
Gap Personnel Holdings Ltd - Wrexham
Ackerman Pierce Ltd - Ackerman Pierce Ltd
Service Care Solutions Ltd - Preston
Elite Nationwide Recruiters Limited - London Office
Essential Employment Ltd - Blackburn
Search Consultancy Ltd - Manchester
Randstad Care (Formally Beresford Blake Thomas) - Manchester
Reed Specialist Recruitment Ltd - Manchester
Independent Living Options - Wrexham
Executive Resource Group - Birmingham
Eden Brown Synergy - Leeds
Caritas Recruitment - Caritas Recruitment - Qualified
Recroot – Suffolk
Total Assist Care Limited - London
Caritas Recruitment - London
One Call Your Call Ltd - Station House
LSG recruitment Limited T/A Social Personnel - Social Personnel
HBHC Synergy Limited - Leeds
Barker Ross Health & Social Care TA Cardea - Cardea Resourcing Limited
Recruitment Team Nine Ltd - Potters Bar
Client Directs Limited - CDL
Sanctuary Personnel Ltd - Sanctuary Personnel Ltd
Reed Specialist Recruitment Ltd - Liverpool
Tempest Resourcing Limited - London
Liquid Personnel Ltd - Manchester
Reed Employment - Liverpool
HCL Social Care t/a Bluecare - London
Eden Brown Synergy - London
Eden Brown Synergy - Manchester
Clockwork Organisation t/a Travail Employment Group - Wrexham
Grand Total

Friday, 3 February 2017

Tax workers shafted by Cardiff Labour Government

‘Shameful’ decision to locate new tax authority just 10 miles from Cardiff

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM has described the decision to locate a new Welsh Government department a few miles from Cardiff as “shameful”.

Llyr Gruffydd has condemned the Cardiff Labour Government’s decision to locate the new Welsh Revenue Authority just 10 miles north of the capital city in Pontypridd, despite assurances by ministers that they would consider moving it to Wrexham or other parts of the North. The new tax authority is expected to create 40 jobs initially with more to follow.

Mr Gruffydd said:
“This Labour Government has, once again, ignored the North. This is despite there being more than 400 tax workers based in Wrexham and Porthmadog who are ideally placed to work for a new revenue authority. They’ve got the skills and expertise and they’ve been shamefully ignored. To make matters worse, just six weeks ago, a government cabinet secretary spoke of his desire to ‘share opportunities right across Wales’"That cabinet secretary, Ken Skates, actually represents a constituency in the North. Can he explain to his constituents, some of who work in the HMRC in Wrexham and will be losing their jobs in a couple of years’ time, how creating this new tax authority a few miles from Cardiff will help those skilled and experienced workers?
“Labour is failing Wales – and failing north Wales in particular. It is centralising institutions in Cardiff rather than sharing and all the warm words we hear about devolving and sharing power are just hot air. This was a wonderful opportunity to show that places like Wrexham could benefit from this new authority and they’ve blown it. Shame on them.”
Mr Gruffydd added that the same vague promises were echoed by First Minister Carwyn Jones on January 10 in an answer to Arfon AM Siân Gwenllian. He said that ‘where a new body is created, we should look beyond Cardiff and perhaps look beyond the south to see whether that body can be located somewhere else in Wales’ .

Mr Gruffydd said: 
“Plaid Cymru is committed to the North, in particular over this issue. We have argued the case for devolving financial services here, to make sure that public spending is shared equally. We have made the case that the expertise we have in both Wrexham and Gwynedd should be utilised.
“It’s clear that ministers are saying one thing in public while their civil servants are working to another brief. The only locations on the WRA appraisal shortlist were in Merthyr, Pontypridd or Cardiff – none in the North or West of the country. How many more times is this Labour Government going to be allowed to get away with this sort of behaviour?”

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Wrexham Council's leader challenged to "come clean" by Plaid Cymru on iPads fiasco

Last year the council's executive board decided to spend £32,000 on 55 new upgraded iPads for the 52 councillors. These would replace the existing iPads the councillors currently use.

Plaid Cymru candidates in the forthcoming May elections have pledged, if elected, not to take the free upgrades. If necessary, they will pay for the upgrades themselves because the council is facing budget cuts.

Now the Wrexham public will have a chance to give their verdict in an "iPad referendum" in the town centre on Saturday, February 25th.

Plaid Cymru spokesperson Carrie Harper said:
"The council is digging its heels in on this matter so let's see what the people think. We'll be on Queen Square from 11am on Saturday, February 25th, asking people to vote on how they'd rather spend the £32,000. Everyone, including councillors, are welcome to come down and have their say - especially in light of new information we've obtained on the new iPads and how much money they'll actually save."

In December council leader Mark Pritchard claimed “the iPads have worked very well for current councillors and have helped us save at least £110k in the printing, posting, landfill waste etc., of the many reports and documents received by councillors."

Carrie Harper said:

"As a result of that claim, we put in a request for more information from the council.

"The Freedom of Information request reveals that the council is still spending about £15,000 a year on producing paper copies of reports, agendas and other information for councillors, the press and the public - £7566 in the last six months alone.

"In addition, the FOI reveals that - contrary to Cllr Pritchard's assertion that it was saving money on landfill waste - the council's paper does not go to landfill. It is recycled and does not cost the council any money.
"To my knowledge, agendas have not been posted for many years but are placed in councillors' pigeonholes in the Guildhall. There are no postage savings.
"So can he provide a breakdown of the £110,000 he says the council has saved by buying iPads in 2012?"

Ms Harper said the council also had to explain how much was really being saved given that councillors had laptops issued before the iPads and, as a result, had electronic access to papers and e-mails.

She added:
"At a time when the council is claiming it has no money for key services such as keeping day care centres open for the elderly, young people's services and funding for Citizens' Advice, then it's important that we look very closely at all council spending. 
"That's particularly the case for councillors, who have been spared the cuts that other services and other council employees have faced. Why should they be exempt from scrutiny and the same cuts as everyone else?"
• Watch this video to explain the situation