Monday, 15 October 2018

25% surge in Plaid Cymru membership

Over 2,000 new members have joined the party since Adam Price was elected leader

Plaid Cymru membership has increased by over a quarter since the party’s leadership election two weeks ago.

This surge in membership, thought to be the largest weekly increase in the history of Plaid Cymru, has seen the number of party members storm past the 10,000 mark.

Membership continues to grow as Plaid Cymru’s message for a hopeful, independent future for a New Wales resonates.

Commenting on the membership surge, party leader Adam Price said:
“I extend a warm welcome to the thousands of people who have joined our cause in the last few days. Together we are going to work to win a New Wales.
“The dramatic surge in our membership shows that people are tired of the politics of the past and want a Plaid Cymru government to lead the building of the self-confident nation we know we must be.
“Our message is a simple one: Yes Wales Can. We can be confident, we can be prosperous, we can be Welsh and European, we can be independent.
“There is something happening in Welsh politics and you can be a part of it. By joining Plaid Cymru you will be able to shape the future of our nation.
“We’re on our way and we know that together, we can win a New Wales.”
The leader of Plaid Cymru announced in his speech at the party’s autumn conference that the membership fee would be waived for anyone joining Plaid Cymru for the remainder of 2018.

Join Plaid Cymru here free.

Friday, 12 October 2018

LDP = Labour's Development Plan

The Labour Welsh Government is insisting that Welsh councils use flawed population projections to plan for future housing growth in Wrexham. The controversial policy will mean the council’s Local Development Plan (LDP) allocating land for an extra 12,000 houses across the borough by 2028. The two biggest sites are proposed off the Cefn Road (1580 houses) and Ruthin Road near Ysgol Clywedog (1500 houses).

The figures, mainly driven by migration into the county, are prompting growing concerns about the impact on local services and infrastructure.

Plaid Cymru Councillor Carrie Harper has campaigned against over-development in Wrexham for the last decade. She said:
“There is no need locally to build houses on the scale being proposed. We’ve had over-development in Wrexham for many years as it is and we’re seeing the impact of that on key services such as the Maelor Hospital.

“These large-scale developments will cause yet more problems for the town in terms of health, education, roads and other infrastructure. Add to this the savage cuts to other frontline services, such as policing and council budgets thanks to Tory austerity measures and it’s difficult to see this being anything other than a disaster.”
“It’s all based on a false premise that Wrexham’s population will rise by 20% by 2035. It’s a ludicrous over-estimate by the Labour Welsh Government when in fact latest annual figures show a static population with the likelihood of falls due to Brexit and EU nationals going home. These figures were based on previous growth in the 2000s linked to the expansion of Glyndwr, the EU accession states and Cheshire limiting housebuilding around Chester. That was a unique combination of events. That’s not the case now, so there’s no need for these thousands of extra houses.

“It’s a scandal that Labour refuses to listen to reason on this, particularly when the Minister responsible for planning is Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths. Local people have repeatedly said they do not want this level of development but Welsh Government is insisting on it. It’s undemocratic for them to be enabling this free for all for developers.”
Plaid Cymru is committed to challenging Labour’s position and the upcoming Local Development Plan (LDP), which is set to be discussed by Wrexham council in November.

Want to read more about Labour's Development Plan? 

Click here for Plaid Cymru AMs challenge to Lesley Griffiths on population estimates 

Click here for Welsh Government should pay £200,000 extra cost caused by the delayed LDP.

Click here to read about the campaign to halt the large-scale sites on Cefn Road and Ruthin Road.

Click here to read about Labour's hypocrisy on the matter going back six years.

Tempers flare over Venture funding bid and corruption claim

Tonight’s Caia Park community council meeting saw a fiery exchange between community councillors over discussions about a funding application from the Venture for £14,000. The council, which is usually chaired by Venture Manager Cllr Malcolm King, had received the grant application following a previous bid for £30,000 for play sessions being rejected recently due to a lack of detail.

Cllr Malcolm Kings Labour colleague Cllr Brian Cameron stepped in to Chair the discussion following Cllr King declaring a conflict of interest due to being employed by the organisation applying, along with another Cllr declaring an interest for the same reason.

A discussion ensued with queries about Councillors conflicts of interest over the item given there were several members employed by or linked to the organisation applying for funding.

Plaid Cllr Carrie Harper addressed the meeting and said:

“I’ll start for the record by saying that every member of this council has been a supporter of the Venture, numerous funding applications have received support over the years that have likely amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds. We’ve approved a separate one just tonight for the annual bonfire event and everyone was happy to support that.We all voice support for the services provided and the contribution made by the staff there to our community."

"However, I have several issues with this application. We have all agreed to set a grant budget of £10,000 for this financial year, about half of that has already been spent and we have a policy to cap grants for each organisation to £2,500 per year. It’s therefore completely inappropriate for the Chair of this council to submit a grant bid for £14,000 being well aware of those rules. In fact he was advised that this was not an appropriate route to take by our clerk but chose to disregard that advice."

"I also have to put on record my concerns that members of this council have been put in an awful situation by this behaviour. If another organisation had put this application in, it wouldn’t have even made the agenda, we’d have written back to them to explain that it exceeded the maximum amount available."

"As community councillors we are responsible for an annual budget of just under a quarter of a million pounds. People in Caia Park quite rightly have an expectation that we will ensure that funding is managed properly and that all the relevant policies and procedures will be applied fairly, to ensure that every local organisation has the same opportunity to apply for funding. By putting this application in, we’re being asked to breach our agreed policies, for an organisation that is run by the Chair. It looks awful."

"We also know that to continue funding the Venture on the same basis next year will cost £30,000 and that the community council is already overspent. The only feasible way to fund this next year is to put people’s council tax up in Caia Park significantly, I will not support that."

"I also want to put my concerns on the record that certain members of this council have been pressured to vote a certain way tonight. I don’t make that claim lightly but that is corrupt. This has got to stop. You can’t just throw the rule book out when it suits and I won’t have Plaid Cymru Councillors tarnished by this behaviour if you decide to vote this through tonight."

"I propose we don’t support this bid as it is because it breaches our grant allocation policy."

The discussion then escalated with an accusation made by Cllr Steve Jones of ‘game playing’ to pass tax payers money to the Chair Cllr Malcolm King. It escalated further following this into an even more heated exchange between Cllr Jones and the temprary Chair Cllr  Brian Cameron. His frustration at the complete disregard for due process was physicly visible. Due to the escalating tension a time out break was called.

When Councillors returned, Labour Cllr Colin Powell, proposed that £14,000 was taken from the dwindling council reserves to fund the Venture. This was passed with a vote of  5- 4.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Kingdom binned by Wrexham Council

Late this afternoon WCBC issued a statement saying:

Wrexham Council has binned Kingdom. In a statement late this afternoon it said:

“Officers have written to Kingdom advising that the contract should be terminated in line with the provisions of the contract with three months’ notice. Kingdom have acknowledged receipt and the necessary arrangements are now commencing to arrange closedown of the systems and processes and new enforcement activity has ceased. The contract cessation date is 28 December 2018.”

It has also been admitted that Kingdom have issued no tickets in August and September, confirming our suspicions that the company has effectively pulled out of North Wales completely.

Councillor Marc Jones, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Wrexham Council, said: “This is long overdue. Kingdom did not ensure our streets were cleaner, they did not tackle dog fouling or flytipping.

“Since July the company has all but vanished - raising questions about how this contract was managed. Plaid Cymru pushed for the Executive Board to get rid of this company in July so we’re glad they finally listened to sense.

“The challenge now is to create an in-house service or work with other councils to make sure our streets are cleaner. Today’s Executive Board agreed to set up a new bailiff service in house and a separate litter enforcement team would be no different in terms of risk and potential income generation.”

Cllr Jones thanked everyone for their work to bin Kingdom in Wrexham, the last Council in north Wales still employing the firm.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Mums' anger over Bounty hunters on maternity wards

Plaid Cymru has urged Betsi Cadwaladr health board to take action after many mothers got in touch complaining about  the way a private company has access to maternity wards in Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

Bounty provides information packs and takes photos of new-born babies, which they then try to sell to new mothers at a very vulnerable and tiring time of their lives. Since we broke the story here, mums have been in touch to express their views and thank Councillor Carrie Harper for raising the problem:

LH said: "It ruined what should have been a special time. I was made to feel weird for not wanting their photos and threatened by their constant 'popping in' as if they’re staff. If I hadn’t been warned by friends, I would have assumed they were members of staff. Thank you for highlighting this Carrie."
CW: "Yes, huge thank you! I felt this was really intrusive. Good on you Carrie Harper!"
GH: "Hugely intrusive. Due to complications my baby was rushed to SCBU whilst I was still on the ward. I heard the bounty lady tell her colleague not to bother with me as I 'didn't even have a baby'. This was so insensitive. Privacy was also an issue as they walked in and out whenever they liked." 
NG: "I've had 3 babies in Wrecsam Maelor and each time they have tried to sell the photos and each time I have declined as they are incredibly expensive and I know my husband can take as good if not better photos! The woman who works for Bounty seems pleasant and was very helpful with me and didn't react negatively when I refused to buy the photos. Having said that I totally disagree they should be allowed to encourage people to buy these extremely expensive photos when they are so vunerable and emotionally drained - new mums are at their most vulnerable for sure. Like others note, people have only just given birth and they shouldn't feel pressurised into paying s huge amount for photos. Thank you Carrie Harper for looking out for those who are vulnerable and this debate hopefully will make new mums aware that they can say no like so many others have done before and that there is nothing wrong with saying no thank you!"
RW: "It's disgusting and they look at you like you're mad if you say no."
MG: "No def not new, my youngest is now 12 and remember different issues with them on all 3, no shame, no sensitivity or empathy to what we were going through with premature babies on two occasions."
SC: "Ddigwyddodd o i mi yn Sbyty Glan Clwyd ar ôl geni fy mab yn 1996 a fy merch fenga yn 1998. Oedd y ffotograffydd yn barod i dynnu llun fy mabi cyn i mi ddeud, 'No thank you' a nath hi edrych yn flin arnaf. Maen nhw’n byhafio efo awdurdod ar y wardiau ac hawdd bydde i fam meddwl eu bod nhw’n bobl iechyd swyddogol yn hytrach na gwerthwyr."
CBS: I had one say to me "but how else will you get your child benefit form?" the cheek of it. It's online, and I told her so (and to bugger off)." 
AD: "My daughter had only been back on the ward for 20 minutes before the photographer turned up. She refused a photo, the photographer said I will take one anyway in case you change your mind. Luckily she is strong willed and refused again. She didn't want a stranger having a photo of her new born baby." 
JE: "I had it almost 6 years ago with my first. We nicknamed them the vultures! They used to pop their head around the curtains even if they were drawn! I remember hearing them selling a package to a young girl in the bed next to me. She ended up paying around £80 for pictures... but hey you got a free Christmas bauble with the picture!
 "I was in for 10 days so I had plenty of time to see them at it. When new parents are feeling pretty vulnerable. That is how they distribute the child allowance forms. They are in the pack!! I even heard some offering "support" which was bang out of order. They were acting like Health staff". 
RC: "Shouldn't be allowed on the ward at all. I remember C getting harassed when C was born. They got her email address after and spammed it full of crap." 
ER: "They got irate with me because I had been breastfeeding for ages and they wanted her in the cot so that they could take the photo and kept asking me 'have you finished feeding yet??!' I told them that I wasn't interested in buying the merchandise but they said they had to take a picture of every baby. I was too tired/vulnerable/uncertain of my facts to argue... "
 NH: "Hate them. And midwives give you a ‘Bounty pack’ at your booking in. Mine went straight in the bin. I don’t know about here in Wales now, but when I had my first (in England), I missed out on the Child Benefit form because they were given out by the reps as standard, and obviously when I declined their offer of photos and Bounty spiel, I didn’t get the paperwork. With my second (in Wrexham), I caved because it happened so quickly and she barged in with such confidence and familiarity. Anyway, she said it was free, which is totally misleading. When I looked at the prices on their website I couldn’t believe what a rip off it actually was. Maternity wards are meant to be secure, yet they let this unscrupulous company and their callous reps in. There’s much I take issue with in our maternity wards, and Bounty is certainly a major one. Makes me so angry that hospitals are taking money for women in their trust and care to be harassed at such a special/ vulnerable/ emotional/ heartbreaking/ life changing time. Kick them out once and for all. A total disgrace." 
LD: "I had my babies in England and you have to get the child benefit form from the bounty Lady so can’t avoid her. I was on a ward for mums that had just had various surgeries and were quite vulnerable, the woman insisted on taking the picture even though I said I wouldn’t be buying it then proceeded to bend my babies into various unnatural positions, it really upset me but I was too ill to protest, I’m glad something is being done about it in Wrexham."
 NB: "It's disgusting. I was on the ward at both the Maelor and Glan Clwyd, both times in a private room because I was so unwell, the Bounty people came into both rooms unannounced asking me about my baby (who was in SCBU and unwell at the time) they asked me loads of questions, if they could come back to take his picture. I signed up to make her go away, they came in everyday until I signed up. It goes in the spam folder."
VB: "Definitely should be banned. You’re so vulnerable after giving birth. First time around, I was in hospital a few days as was struggling to feed my baby. The hormones kicked in and I was a blubbering mess thinking I was already failing at parenting; the last thing I needed was the Bounty sales person in my face making me feel even more of a failure for not wanting to smile. I managed to send her on her way but I’m an otherwise outspoken person and I think younger, less confident mums would be even more vulnerable to high pressure sales."
EF: "It is completely wrong and intrusive and wouldn't happen to men who had had a vasectomy: 'Would you like a photo of how you look now your nuts don't work...'
A health worker contacted us:
"Many years ago when I worked as a midwife (and later as a health visitor) the health authority I worked for didn't allow the Bounty people to have any contact with the new mothers, they just allowed them to deliver large cardboard boxes filled with the bags of free samples to the hospital wards.
"They were stored by the entrance to the ward and when the mum was leaving she could take a pack from the box if she wanted one - or not, if she didn't want one. I used to have my reservations about some of the stuff that was in the bags but some of it was marginally useful. I seem to remember there may have been a leaflet in there about photos, but because of the way the bags were distributed, the woman who had just given birth had full control over whether or not she made contact with the people offering the photos.
"I'm horrified to hear that Betsi Cadwaladr have entered into a contract allowing these people onto the wards - completely inappropriate in my opinion and there are other options provided the NHS management is firm about it.
 "I think it's absolutely inappropriate for these people to be given licence to go onto the wards and speak to patients, for all the reasons already discussed and also because if they are seen as being 'approved' in some way then whatever inappropriate advice they might (possibly unintentionally, thinking they are just chatting) give out may be heard as having some authority by someone who doesn't understand the system."
This dossier has been sent to Betsi Cadwaladr's chief executive and Plaid Cymru's Wrexham branch have called for the heath board to stop allowing Bounty and other private firms access to sensitive wards and vulnerable patients without their consent. 

Cllr Carrie Harper said: "Another question to be asked is why Bounty are being used by the HMRC to give new mothers their Child Benefit forms. This company is data farming on a huge scale and this means young families are being targetted with child-related spam for years upon years."

Friday, 28 September 2018

A solution on the horizon for the Groves?

The on-going saga to determine the future of the Groves building and site has been well documented on this blog since the debate began several years ago.

Originally the council owned site was due to be taken over by Coleg Cambria but this fell through in 2015 with Wrexham councils leadership deciding to withdraw from negotiations to sell it, a situation described at the time by Coleg Cambria’s Principle David Jones as ‘hugely disappointing and disillusioning’.

Since then Wrexham council have come under fire for trying to rush through a bid to demolish the building, ultimately leading to a campaign to save it and the Groves eventually being listed by Cadw in 2016.

Sitting within the portfolio of the Education department, it has since been declared surplus to requirements, then not surplus to requirement and most recently, surplus to requirements for Primary education but still with no clear direction outlined for it’s use.

Almost a year ago I requested that the issue be looked at by one of the council scrutiny committees in an attempt to get some clarity about the future of the building and site. That meeting eventually happened last week and came with a long overdue options appraisal to look at the potential re use of the building for a primary school and also the use of the adjacent land for a new build primary school to meet demand within the town centre for school places.

The meeting saw frustration vented from most councillors present at the seeming lack of ability of the council leadership to get to grips with the issue and find a solution, or at least outline a way forward after so much time. Kicking this issue into the long grass yet again was simply not going to be an acceptable option. Ultimately the committee decided to recommend the building was surplus to requirements for primary education but chose not to endorse the original request from the Education department to declare it surplus to requirements altogether. They also went a step further, establishing a new task and finish group to explore all the options to finally bring the building back in to use.

The situation is clear enough, we’ve arrived at this point through a series of misjudgements, missed opportunities and to be blunt political personality clashes, that have ultimately meant that nothing got done. It’s time now to draw a line under past mistakes and make sure this building does not sit empty for another decade and is brought back into use to benefit local people .That will require the council’s leadership to take on board views outside its own bubble which I very much hope its capable of, we’ll see.

There are as always solutions on the table, if the political will is there to make them a reality. This new group, not weighted down with the complications and war wounds of previous spats, may well hold the key to finally getting the right result. 

The sales reps on our maternity wards - “I said no and they still took the photos”

Betsi cadwaldr Health Board received £1922 from data marketing firm Bounty in 2016/17 to gain access to north Wales maternity wards according to an FOI published on the Health Boards website.

The firm which distributes bounty goody bags and tries to sell new parents photo’s of their newborns has received wide spread criticism from Mums and families across the UK due to its hard sell tactics at the bedside. The details of newborn babies and their mothers are harvested on the post natal ward and then resold repeatedly to a wide variety of companies.

Plaid Cymru Councillor Carrie Harper said: “ Calls to end this cash for access practise have so far been ignored and the contract between Betsi cadwaldr Health Board and Bounty is in place unitil 2020. Allowing high pressure selling on a maternity ward is completely unethical. There aren’t many people more vulnerable than women after they’ve just given birth, they should be free to recover from childbirth and to bond with their babies in peace.”

“Many parents reluctantly consent as they don’t distinguish these reps from the many medical professionals who visit them on the ward. These tactics are bad enough on the High Street but we certainly shouldn’t be allowing them on our maternity wards.”

Wrexham mother Jenny Millar recalled her experience of Bounty following the birth of her second child, she said: “A rep asked to take photo’s and I said no straight away, I turned over and tried to go back to sleep, then I heard the camera going. She came around the other side of the bed to show me the pictures and to try and persuade me to buy them, I said no again and had to repeat myself 3 times before she finally went.”

Another local mother also relayed her experience: "Three times I had to tell the Bounty rep I didn't want a picture on the maternity ward. I was struggling to establish breast feeding after a caesarean section and I really did not want to be bothered but even with the curtains closed she kept intruding. They should not be allowed near women at such a vulnerable time. They dress it up as taking a nice picture and giving free samples but in reality they are using one of the most precious times in a woman's life to dreg for data to hawk to the highest bidder. They're utterly shameless."

Carrie Harper added: “I’ll be writing to Betsi cadwaldr Heath Board for more information about this contract and to urge them to put the interests of mothers and their newborns first, the contract should not be renewed when it ends in April 2020”.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Life expectancy falling faster in Wales than anywhere in Europe

Hywel Williams MP

UK austerity to blame for Welsh life expectancy fall - Oxford Prof

Life expectancy in Wales is going backwards quicker than anywhere else in Europe, according to new data from the Office of National Statistics.

Official statistics from the ONS show that life expectancy fell by 5.72 weeks for men in Wales between 2014-2016 and 2015-2017, and by 4.16 weeks for women. The comparative figures for the other UK countries were:

  • Scotland
    • Men: -2.6 weeks
    • Women: -3.12 weeks
  • Northern Ireland
    • Men: -4.16 weeks
    • Women: +0.52 weeks
  • England
    • Men: +1.56 weeks
    • Women: +0.52 weeks
  • Wales
    • Men: -5.72 weeks
    • Women: -4.16 weeks
Oxford University Professor Danny Dorling told the BBC's World at One programme that Westminster policy was to blame, highlighting cuts to public sector services and a drop in immigration.

Speaking to the World at One, Professor Dorling said:
"We know that we have had no harsh winters since 2010 so it's not cold winters; we know it's not an influenza epidemic because we haven't had one of those. We're beginning to narrow it down to two things: The big thing is austerity and the cuts affecting the frail and the elderly in many, many ways, and the second thing is that we're no longer getting the young, healthy migrants that we were getting in the past which were actually helping boost our statistics."
Plaid Cymru MP, Hywel Williams has called the figures "scandalous", saying they reflect how Westminster austerity has disproportionately affected Wales.

Mr Williams said:
"These scandalous figures show the real impact of Westminster's policies on people's lives. This is not just people earning less, or paying more for their mortgages and groceries, it is people dying earlier than they should be.  
"For Wales - a country that is bound to one of the richest states in the world - to see life expectancy not only falling when it is rising elsewhere, but for it to be falling faster than anywhere else in Europe should send shivers down the spines of those who have forced through these savage cuts to public services. 
"It is the first time since the Second World War that the infant mortality rate has risen two years in a row across the UK and we've seen a substantial increase in the number of elderly and frail people dying two or three years earlier than normal.  
"And what have we got to show for it? Austerity continues to be driven by those who claim it is necessary to eliminate the budget deficit but the reality is that austerity has depressed economic growth, leading to less money coming in, pushing the apparent goal of a balanced budget further and further away. So we should look at who has gained, and look no further than the pampered lives of the fat cats who win on the way up - and win on the way down too. 
"It is a self-defeating prophecy and Wales cannot afford to be subjected to more of it. Those responsible in Westminster should hang their heads in shame and recognise the damage they continue to cause."


Full transcript of Professor Dorling's comments on the World at One:

"The immediate reasons are that more people have died - more babies have died. Last year more babies died than the year before, and the year before more died than the year before that, so the infant mortality rate has risen two years in a row in the UK. Nowhere else in Europe has that happened and the last time that happened in the UK was during the Second World War. 
"But the main increase in deaths has been elderly frail people dying two or three years earlier than normal. We know that we have had no harsh winters since 2010 so it's not cold winters; we know it's not an influenza epidemic because we haven't had one of those. We're beginning to narrow it down to two things: The big thing is austerity and the cuts affecting the frail and the elderly in many, many ways, and the second thing is that we're no longer getting the young, healthy migrants that we were getting in the past which were actually helping boost our statistics."

Labour is failing north Wales

Dear Editor

 I was intrigued to see Wrexham’s Labour MP echo Tory calls for a Minister for the North.

His reasoning is that the North has done badly from the past two decades of Labour rule in Cardiff. On that I agree. The same is true of the West of Wales, the Valleys and many other communities across our nation.

What does that say, I wonder, about the Assembly Members from his own party who represent constituencies in the North? Wrexham’s AM is a cabinet secretary. So too is the AM for Clwyd South. Delyn’s AM is also a minister.

If these are failing to stand up for the North, then it’s a damning indictment of his fellow Labour politicians and the 20 years of misrule we’ve endured under that party’s leadership.

I believe all our cabinet secretaries and ministers should be fighting for the best for the North in all their portfolios. Expecting a minister for the North to cover all aspects of Assembly responsibility – from health to education to housing and beyond – is a nonsense and I suspect Mr Lucas knows it. He attempts to deflect the blame from his colleagues with a shiny new job but the truth is that we need a change of government in Cardiff.

 A Plaid Cymru government would be one where all ministers treat all parts of Wales fairly and equally. It would be a government with an economic plan for Wales and a laser-like focus on improving the lives of people in terms of better health, education and housing.


Llyr Gruffydd AM
Plaid Cymru, North Wales