Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Controversial changes to nursing rotas would only save 2% of monthly agency nursing bills, health board admits


North Wales Plaid Cymru AM says: ‘Scrap nurse rota changes’

Controversial and unpopular changes to nurses’ rotas would only save 2% of a health board’s £1,120,000 monthly agency nursing bills, it has been revealed.

Betsi Cadwaladr health board, which currently has a deficit of £42m and has recently admitted it is struggling to meet its financial targets, has revealed the expected cost of proposed changes to nursing rotas in a Freedom of Information response to Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd.

Mr Gruffydd said: 
“The savings that the health board hopes to make with these hugely unpopular changes to nursing rotas are tiny when put into context. In return for destroying staff morale and goodwill among hard-pressed nurses and Health Care Support Workers, the health board expects to save just £25,000 a month. This is just 2% of the monthly agency nursing bill of £1,120,000.
 “We first learned about these proposals, which are out to consultation until September 17th, when nurses approached us to express their concerns about the implications. Nurses were expected to be on duty for an extra half and hour for no extra pay by taking longer breaks on their shift.  
“It’s a cynical move by a health board that appears to be so remote from the frontline staff that it doesn’t realise how many of them already work through their breaks. Our NHS locally relies on the goodwill of 4,095 nurses and Health Care Support Workers and this proposal will destroy that goodwill.  
“I doubt that the ‘savings’ envisaged in this proposal will materialise because we’ve heard from so many nurses that they will not work their breaks any more, that they will reduce their hours or take annual leave. Nurses are being placed in an impossible position by senior management, who are making a difficult situation worse with these plans.  
“In the past month more than 3,200 people have signed Plaid Cymru’s online petition - https://www.wrexhamplaid.cymru/nurse_rotas_pet - opposing these proposals. A further 2,400 have signed Unite the Union’s petition as well. The feedback we’ve had from the petition has been overwhelming with experienced skilled nurses saying this will be the death knell of the health board. Betsi’s senior management must reconsider its plans and scrap the proposals.  
“I would also urge the Labour health minister Vaughan Gething to intervene – Betsi Cadwaladr is under his direct control and has been in special measures for four years now. He needs to understand that the pitiful amount of savings achieved under this proposal will be outweighed by the additional costs of paying agencies to cover nurses who retire, reduce their hours or who actually take their breaks rather than being on call on their wards or units.”
 * The consultation ends on September 17th - please show your support for our nurses here.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

We should not be surprised when Tories talk Wales down


In reply to Tory candidate Sarah Atherton’s recent letter titled ‘Only the Tories will stand up for Wales’. There is so much irony in that statement it’s difficult to know where to start.

Sarah trots out the usual Tory line that Wales is too poor and too small to be a successful Independent nation and delights in telling us that we would be incapable of running our own affairs.

This doing Wales down attitude should surprise no one, the Tory party called for a re run of the 1997 referendum establishing our own Assembly and they continued to oppose Wales having any powers for 6 years following that. Rather than standing up for us, this seems to suggest they’d much prefer to keep Wales quiet. 

Atherton then attempts to convince us that Wales is too poor because of ‘the maths’. She refers to the fiscal gap. So is Wales too poor? There are 3 key issues to consider.

In Wales, recent figures estimate the fiscal gap is £13.7b and falling but that figure comes with a number of caveats.

Firstly, the figure is an estimate of what the fiscal gap is as part of the Union, not what it would be in an Independent Wales. This is key because an Independent Wales would spend significantly less in a number of different areas. We would not be spending Welsh tax payers money on England only projects such as HS2 and London's Cross Rail for instance as we do now, we would also spend significantly less on defence and nothing at all on vanity projects such as refurbishing the Houses of Parliament. We would of course be free to set our own spending priorities which would be significantly different to those dictated to us by Tories in Westminster.

Secondly, there is much debate about what the true Welsh tax base actually is because accurate figures are not currently available. Many companies who operate in both Wales and England are often registered in England for tax purposes, meaning we do not currently have accurate data as regards what taxes are raised in Wales.

All in all, any fiscal gap in an Independent Wales would be substantially less than the estimate used in the figure Atherton quotes. Additionally, having full control over all economic levers such as borrowing and taxation means we will finally have the economic tools we need to build the Welsh economy. The truth is that our economy has been kept on its knees by successive UK Governments who have never prioritised our interests but instead been more interested in exploiting our resources. We literally can’t afford not to be Independent.

Thirdly and crucially, it is simply a fact that most countries run at a deficit, aside from a few oil rich middle eastern nations, this is a perfectly normal situation. For instance, any fiscal gap in Wales is dwarfed by the fiscal gap of the UK, which stood at a whopping £167b at its highest in 2010. Does Sarah Atherton think all UK nations including England are too poor to be Independent because of the fiscal gap? I doubt it, that’s just a view reserved for Wales I’m sure.

So is Wales too small to be Independent? This is nonsense and another empty line trotted out to every country who ever dared entertain their Independence. Is Iceland with a population of 340,000 people too small? Is Luxembourg too small? New Zealand, Norway? Finland? Ireland? Of course not. Many thriving Independent nations have a smaller population than Wales and many fewer resources. There are in fact 18 Independent nations in Europe with a smaller population than Wales.

Does Sarah Atherton believe people in Wales are too stupid to be Independent? She’s keen to suggest bizarrely that the Welsh population would flee across the border should Wales gain her Independence because in her opinion only England can run decent public services and offer a good quality of life. Let’s deal with that ridiculous idea head on, there is nothing intrinsic about the people of Wales that means we’re any less capable of running our own affairs than any other nation anywhere in the world. To suggest otherwise is just insulting.

To conclude, can anyone seriously take constitutional or economic advice from the Tory party who are currently trying suspend democracy in London to force through a no deal Brexit? The party who inflicted the Bedroom Tax, Universal Credit and zero hours contracts on Welsh communities?  The party who are led by a racist, misogynist, homophobic buffoon who isn’t fit for office?  

I for one would much rather see the people of Wales chart our own course. My message to Sarah Atherton and the Tories is that we can't afford not to be Independent, we’re not too small and we’re not too stupid to run our own country. The irony and arrogance of such suggestions given the reign of chaos by Sarah Atherton’s party across the border is staggering.



Friday, 23 August 2019

'500 nursing vacancies - yet Betsi management are doing this!'

Mounting concern over rota change plans in north Wales hospitals


Plaid Cymru councillor Carrie Harper has condemned Betsi Cadwaladr health board over plans to make nurses work longer shifts for no more money.

The proposals, currently out for consultation among staff, would mean nurses and Health Care Support Workers having an extra half-hour unpaid break per shift. This would effectively mean having to work an extra shift per month and has prompted a huge reaction among the health board's nursing staff.

Cllr Harper, from Wrexham, said: 
"Betsi Cadwaladr health board currently has 500 nursing vacancies. Yet its management plans to introduce new rotas for staff that will make it harder to fill those vacancies. Nurses are telling Plaid Cymru that they will retire early, cut their hours, take annual leave or even go to work for agencies if these proposals go ahead.
"Nurses and HCSWs are at the frontline of delivering a fantastic service across the North. They're already working under immense pressure and many have told us that they have to take their breaks on the ward and are effectively on call despite not being paid for those breaks. Betsi is cynically trying to exploit nurses' goodwill to have them stay on site for longer so they can save money on employing agency nurses.
"Nurses work damned hard and don't need more pressure being put on them by management who can leave their offices at 5pm. One in 10 nursing positions is vacant in Betsi, which gives you an indication of how difficult it is to fill these demanding roles. Does senior management really think this move is going to help retention and recruitment?"

The petition - https://www.wrexhamplaid.cymru/nurse_rotas - which was launched just four days ago has already gathered 2,500 supporters and Cllr Harper said the passion and strength of feeling was evident from the hundreds of comments by nurses, HCSWs and general public.

She added: 
"The consultation goes on until 17 September. There's still time to show your support for our nurses and to keep the pressure up on both BCUHB management and the Welsh Government, which has direct control over Betsi."

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Nurses speak out over controversial Betsi plans

'This will be the final nail in the coffin for nurses working for Betsi. We already work on understaffed ward so we are lucky if we take a break. This will mean lots of nurses moving away from the nursing profession and I will be one of them. I absolutely love being a nurse but will not have my health threatened by the trust putting more pressures on me. Betsi are showing their true colours in my opinion, they care more for finances than patient or staff wellbeing. Maybe if they put money into their frontline staff by making wards safely staffed and not paying companies to come up with stupid ideas then they might save money in the long run.'

Nurses have come forward in their droves to talk about the impact of proposed changes to their breaks.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board are currently consulting on plans to force nurses and Health Care Support Workers to take an extra unpaid half-hour break during shifts. 

Critics of the plan such as Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM, say the changes will mean nurses being on call during emergencies and will effectively end up having to work an extra shift per month for the same money.

Nurses have commented on a petition launched by Plaid Cymru explaining how it will affect them in terms of childcare costs by having to work longer hours. Some have said they will reduce their hours or even go to work for agencies.

One said:

"I am a staff nurse who feels that this will be the final nail in the coffin for nurses working for Betsi. We already work on understaffed ward so we are lucky if we take a break. This will mean lots of nurses moving away from the nursing profession and I will be one of them. I absolutely love being a nurse but will not have my health threatened by the trust putting more pressures on me. Betsi are showing their true colours in my opinion, they care more for finances than patient or staff wellbeing. Maybe if they put money into their frontline staff by making wards safely staffed and not paying companies to come up with stupid ideas then they might save money in the long run."

Mr Gruffydd said: 
"There has been a huge response to our petition in the past two days with many nurses contacting us to express their horror at the way the health board is trying to make them work longer shifts. Nurses and HCSWs have told us that they already miss breaks because they're so stretched on wards and units and they fear this will just make matters worse.

"It's clear that many frontline staff have to skip breaks because of emergencies and critical situations. Many stay over their shifts for handovers, which can be lengthy in complex cases on specialist units. The NHS survives despite ongoing financial pressures because of the goodwill of its workforce. Staff morale has been battered over recent years and this, as one nurse states, will be the final nail in the coffin'. Losing that goodwill undermines any potential for savings by this cash-strapped health board."

Mr Gruffydd also questioned whether the health minister Vaughan Gething had been informed of the changes, which are being consulted on during the summer holiday and while the Assembly is in recess: 
"This is a very short consultation on what is clearly a hugely controversial matter. It should not take place in August when many nurses will be on holiday or caring for children. I want to know whether the health minister is aware of these proposals, especially as BCUHB is in special measures and under the direct control of the Labour government in Cardiff. If he is aware, does he support the changes?

"I've supported NHS staff over the years with campaigns to retain our neonatal services, raising questions about mental health provision, opposing community hospital closures and more recently the proposal to privatise renal services. Plaid Cymru wants a better NHS for Wales and that's why we believe it's vital to reject these planned rota changes. Our nurses and HCSWs deserve much better and that's why I'm urging as many people as possible to sign and share the petition against these proposals."

• The petition to support the nurses on this matter is here: https://www.wrexhamplaid.cymru/nurse_rotas

Some of the comments from nurses and the general public taken from the petition
(anonymised to protect identities)


If nurses were able to take their breaks completely interruption free then great, but as this is not the case, and most do not even take their full break due to interruptions! I am in full support of my colleagues who are appealing this. – NJ

My daughter works in a very busy NHS ward and the supposed 12.5 hour shift regularly exceeds this and she’s often handing over, completing notes during unpaid overtime. This is a ridiculous proposal and smacks of exploitation of already hardworking people – PW
Stop penalising nursing staff start at the top with executives and managers of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board! – SE

This is criminal. It is already hard enough to take the breaks staff have, taking an extra half hour will be near on impossible, resulting in unpaid labour. Also having to work an extra day will mean extra childcare and fuel costs for staff, but for no extra pay. Shocking! – RW

What is happening? Aren’t nurses working hard enough without this? What a way to send out a strong msg ‘Nurses we don’t value you, we want to push you further into leaving a profession you love’. If this goes through it’s an absolute disgrace! – Claire
Having to do a make-up shift already once a month has a detrimental effect on my personal life, I end up staying in work an extra half hour every day anyway for free due to emergencies and handover. We don’t just go home at the end of our shift when a patient may die. How could this when we already give so much? - Emily

I am a staff nurse who feels that this will be the final nail in the coffin for nurses working for Betsi. We already work on understaffed ward so we are lucky if we take a break. This will mean lots of nurses moving away from the nursing profession and I will be one of them. I absolutely love being a nurse but will not have my health threatened by the trust putting more pressures on me. Betsi are showing their true colours in my opinion, they care more for finances than patient or staff wellbeing. Maybe if they put money into their frontline staff by making wards safely staffed and not paying companies to come up with stupid ideas then they might save money in the long run. – SE

It's disgraceful we work so hard cant believe they are thinking of doing this . Good job I’m near retirement age .if it goes ahead I’m leaving and going to work for agency xx- EW

Betsi is going to ruin the morale on wards to pay for new unnecessary management roles.- KJ

I’m supporting myself as a HCSW and my fellow nurses and HCSWs everywhere. We have a life beyond the NHS - family, carers’ responsibilities and it’s important to have a good balance for less stress and better, happier work force that can in turn be more focused and better in what they do. Instead of being burnt out and off on sick, which in turn costs more to the NHS. Scrapping this is best thing for everyone it’s not modern day slavery with government extending the pension age to over 70. why are you pushing the NHS to breaking point? Soon there be no one to care for us so thank God for unions and MPs who will stand up for NHS, its staff and the rights of every care worker in UK more than ever. – LW

This is outrageous. On 12 hr night shift, we are unable to take a half hour brake due to heavy workload, never mind an hours break. This will cause many nurses to reduce their hours, causing more staff shortage. – Nia

When I worked as a Nurse the half hour break wasn’t long enough to even get to the hospital canteen and there was no where comfortable near the ward to rest.= Rowena

The staffing levels are already at an all time low this proposed rota will make things much worse. I for one would seriously consider changing my job. I work long enough hours without breaks at times. There is no way I want to do an extra 12 hour shift every month. They haven’t even considered the travel time that staff do before and after a shift. Child care expenses, extra fuel costs!! are they going to help with these? Are they going to pay overtime for every time don’t get breaks? We all know the answer to this. Stop taking NHS staff for granted and give us a break!- Lisa

We struggle to sometimes take our already allocated room 30 minutes never mind 60. I definitely see this resulting in even lower staff morale and nurses going down in their hours! – Angharad


Julie - I’m tired of the harm this government is inflicting on the NHS and it’s dedicated staff working on the frontline and the direct impact on the service users and patients.

I have worked for the NHS for over 22 years and I am losing my passion and hope.

This new regulation about to be put in place will inevitably lower the nursing staff staffing levels, more so less people wanting to join the profession = less registered nurses, due to negativity and how the higher ups are not really listening to their first line of health professionals. You want to keep your workers morale high and continue to thrive? You start by listen to them as THEY//WE are the ones caring for the people unwell NOT you. Its because the goodwill of the nursing profession that its advancing but, will soon fall should the higher ups continue down this arrogant path. I’ve never commented on much however, there is a line and this is where we all must stand otherwise the nursing standard of care, the well thought out “providing holistic care” will all just be for nothing.- Gabriel
Both nurses and hca staff struggle daily to get their lunch break let alone any other breaks.. We bend over backwards to ensure patients have the best care. We often dont finish on time at the end of our shifts and we are expected to work longer hours for less pay. It’s no wonder nhs staff are finding alternative employment when they are pushed to breaking point.. – Laura

Enough is enough, my father is currently in YG and a lot of the nursing staff already seem overworked to me. Stop crisis management and plan for the future!! Look after the nurses we already have instead of bringing them to their knees – Heather

I am a hcsw at Glan Clwyd working 37.5 a week. I have two small children with very little support towards childcare and flexibility. I do not agree with the changes that they want to make. I will be making a loss in pay and having to pay for an extra day in child care. If this plans goes ahead I will be reducing my hours to 34.5. – C

Work to rule. Take all breaks off the ward, every minute, and lodge a formal complaint if you’re unable to, every time. If you don’t fight they will walk all over you.- Alan

CG - I am a student nurse and completely disagree with this!

VW- Staff on the ward regularly miss breaks due to staff shortage and acuity. Myself and other members of staff regularly stay over our shift hours and never claim the time back. Think this will put the nail in the coffin for an already struggling health board. Staff go above and beyond for the NHS and this will be seen to further alienate staff on the ground and management.

JE - Morale at rock bottom, nurses doing the work of 2 nurses due to staff shortages, and this is Betsi's way of saying thank you for all your hard work, all the extra minutes you give by not being able to go for breaks anyway, thank you for all the extra minutes given when no one comes to take handover from you so you have to stay and look after the patients for no pay. Thank you for all the extra shifts you do to prevent the wards from becoming more unsafe than they already are.

ML- As a midwife this will have a huge negative impact on my working and personal life

SR - Our ward has had this in place since the start of 2019. Had no say in the matter, just happened as a trial and then never went back. Nurses never left on time as it was….now they’re working at least an extra hour each shift, as well as not managing to get full breaks!

RJ - I work as an ANP in general practice and over the last 3 weeks whilst my mother has been acutely unwell I have watched nurses working without breaks on a highly dependant ward. To suggest these nurses work the same hours for an hours less pay is criminal. I havecspokennto these nurses and generally the is not enough cover for them to safely leave their patients, let alone meet all the quality standards required of them in a working day. I would suggest that BCUHB are going the right way to reduce staff moral. Do they not realise that low moral equates to nurses voting with their feet. I can see a flux of nurses applying for agency work where they would get paid more for the hours they put in. We are supposed to be retaining nurses and making them feel valued which always results in excellence in patient care not driving nurses out.




Saturday, 17 August 2019

North Wales nurses rota: 'Changes will mean an extra unpaid shift every month'


Cash-strapped health board targets nurses to save money

Betsi Cadwaladr health board has engaged expensive consultants to come up with a brainwave to save money:  Extend nurses' shifts by an extra half hour without pay.

The proposal, currently out to consultation, would mean a nurse currently working a 12 hrs 30 minute shift (with half an hour unpaid break) expected to work the same shift but only get paid for 11 hrs 30 minutes.

Currently many nurses take their breaks on their wards or unit and are effectively on call in an emergency. This is purely down to the goodwill of hard-working staff and this vindictive approach threatens to undermine nursing morale and goodwill totally.

The changes will effectively mean full-time nurses having to work an extra shift a month to make up the unpaid hours.

The consultation has been initiated by PriceWaterhouseCooper, one of the big four global accountancy firms. It will affect thousands of nurses and health care support workers in secondary care.

Nurses we have spoken to anonymously say that, if the plan goes ahead, they will consider 
• reducing their hours  
• quitting completely 
• taking their breaks off their unit or ward 
• taking annual leave rather than work extra shifts
Similar changes have been imposed in English hospitals but this is believed to be the first time it's been tried in the Welsh NHS. 

Underlying the proposal is the need in law to ensure safe staffing on every ward while reducing agency nursing costs by ensuring BCUHB nursing and health care support worker staff make up the numbers.

Poor management also means that there are a huge variety in staff breaks - from no breaks to 75 minutes paid breaks. Standardising these should not mean enforcing an unfair extra burden on nurses.

Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has written to BCUHB's chief executive to ask the following:
• How much has PriceWaterhouseCooper been paid by BCUHB for this consultation?
• How many nurses and health care support workers are affected by these proposals?
• How much does the health board expect to save by introducing this?
• What is the health board's current monthly bill for agency nursing and by how much does it anticipate reducing it if these changes are implemented?
Mr Gruffydd added: 
"BCUHB is in dire straits financially - currently running a £42 million deficit with no prospect of reducing that as demand rises due to an ageing population.
"The health board has been in special measures due to a variety of clinical failures since 2015. It is not in its fifth year of direct Labour government control yet shows no signs of dealing with the workforce challenges that underpin much of its problems.
"Concerned nurses have contacted us because this proposal with backfire badly on the health board. The loss of goodwill among thousands of nurses who are already working under immense pressures will probably make matters worse. It's no way to treat skilled, experienced and specialist staff and suggests a cost-cutting exercise promoted by accountants rather than people who understand what it's like to work on a ward or specialist unit."
He said standardisation of breaks was necessary but that this proposal was all about saving money. 

Mr Gruffydd added: 
"I want BCUHB to reconsider this proposal. It is causing anxiety among staff who don't need further stress in their working lives. Staff morale is already low, this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
"I will also be writing to the health minister Vaughan Gething to see whether his department, which has direct oversight of Betsi Cadwaladr, is supporti
ve of these changes. Or does he agree with Crewe and Nantwich MP Laura Smith, his Labour colleague, who is opposed to similar changes that have been imposed on nurses at Leighton Hospital?
"Is he listening to unions such as Unite and the Royal College of Nursing? I would urge him to step in and abandon this policy before it causes real problems with the workforce." 

• Plaid Cymru has launched a petition to support the nurses. Please sign here: https://www.wrexhamplaid.cymru/nurse_rotas

Friday, 9 August 2019

DON’T SCRAP INDEPENDENT PATIENTS’ VOICE FOR NORTH WALES


Plaid Cymru AMs Llyr Gruffydd and Helen Mary Jones together with Hywel Williams MP and councillors from four counties join forces with North Wales CHC chief executive Geoff Ryall-Harvey and CHC chair Jackie Allen to campaign to save the North Wales Community Health Council


Plaid Cymru launches campaign to save Community Health Council



Plaid Cymru has launched a campaign to save the local patients’ voice from being axed by the Welsh Government.


The campaign, by North Wales regional AM Llyr Gruffydd, aims to retain the independent voice of patients in the North in the face of Welsh Government plans to scrap it and create a new organisation based in Cardiff.


Mr Gruffydd said: 
“Patients and their families are often at their most vulnerable while in hospital or needing care from the NHS. Nurses, doctors and all the other NHS staff do a fantastic job under difficult circumstances but, when things go wrong, it’s important to have people on your side.

“The North Wales Community Health Council is an independent voice for patients and their families. It’s made up of community representatives from every part of the region and is not answerable to the health board – it’s completely independent and carries out 500 unannounced ward visits each year in the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board area.

“As a result, it’s earned a reputation as a fierce defender of standards, an ally of hard-pressed staff and a strong advocate for patients.

“Its role has never been more important as Betsi Cadwaladr goes into its fifth year of ‘special measures’ and direct rule from Cardiff Bay. This is due to ongoing problems specifically in mental health provision but also generally in terms of managing workforce planning and recruitment.

“With that in mind we are horrified by plans by the Welsh Government to scrap the North Wales CHC and replace it with a Cardiff-based quango of selected appointees. Selected by the Welsh Government!

“There has never been a greater need for an independent voice for patients in north Wales. Scrutiny of the loss of community facilities, the pressure on NHS staff due to cuts, the growing demand of an elderly population with complex medical needs and the over-dependency on agency staff are only part of the work that the patients’ voice undertakes.”


Mr Gruffydd pointed out that it has about a dozen members from each county, the current CHC understands and is answerable to local communities and local people who use the health service: 

“It can offer specialist support to help dissatisfied patients and their families navigate the NHS bureaucracy when they are at their most fragile and vulnerable. They’re on our side and in recent years have been fearless in criticising failings in our health board while always backing our health service.

“It’s little wonder, especially with rumours of greater health centralisation on the horizon, that the Welsh Government would want to gag this independent voice just as happened in England and Scotland in the past. But, even by their standards, it’s staggering to see a grassroots organisation like this being shut down in favour of a handful of hand-picked appointees that will sit in Cardiff."


Keep our independent voice for patients here in the North – please sign our petition at 
https://www.clwydpartyof.wales/keep_north_wales_patients_voice

Berwyn prison ‘a catastrophic failure’

Plaid AM condemns latest violence figures

The newest prison in Wales is failing catastrophically according to a Plaid Cymru Assembly Member after a new report demonstrated appalling levels of violence against both staff and among prisoners.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said: “The Wales Governance Centre’s latest report on sentencing and imprisonment in Wales reveals that HMP Berwyn is showing signs of institutional failure.

“The prison, which was touted as a model for the future, is still just over half full but it already tops the list in terms of violence between prisoners, weapon finds and alcohol finds in 2018. It has become an unsafe prison for many vulnerable people and assaults on staff are also unacceptably high.

“At HMP Berwyn, the population has increased by 116% since 2017 but the number of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults rose by 338% in 2018.

“Worse still, the number of assaults on staff at HMP Berwyn increased by 405% in 2018 from 40 in 2017 to 202 in 2018. These are appalling statistics.”


The report reveals that the number of weapons discovered in Welsh prisons has increased significantly in recent years, HMP Berwyn having the highest with 11 finds per 100 prisoner in the year ending March 2019.

HMP Berwyn opened in February 2017 and was eventually meant to house 2,100 male prisoners. Two years on and it only has 1,300 inmates, in part due to staff problems.

Mr Gruffydd said: “The report also shows that Wales has the highest level of prison population in Western Europe with one in every 667 citizens under lock and key, significantly higher than England. The fact that criminal justice is not devolved to Wales – as it is in Scotland and Northern Ireland – means that we are dependent on a prison policy designed and delivered from London. It’s not working and this excellent report makes clear that the new model prison that is Berwyn has so far failed to live up to the claims made about it. Only last month another damning report revealed that a quarter of inmates developed a drug problem while in HMP Berwyn, which suggests it’s part of the problem rather than being part of the solution.” 


Mr Gruffydd added that his Plaid Cymru colleague, the former Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Elfyn Llwyd had warned more than five years ago that the scale of the prison would cause problems, not solve them.

 Back in February 2014, Mr Llwyd wrote about his visit to a similar ‘super prison’ in Texas: “The US prison system found that in such institutions, larger numbers of inmates were difficult to manage; that in many instances they were dangerous for staff and inmates; that the prisons are located too far away from communities and hence fragment the inmates’ relationships with families; and that they do not have a positive impact on the inmates themselves, leading to higher rates of reoffending.”

Mr Gruffydd said: “Despite these warnings, the UK Government ploughed ahead and has left us with a prison in crisis after just a couple of years. It was a problem that could have been avoided. In light of these alarming findings, I want to know whether the Ministry of Justice believes that these huge super prisons such as Berwyn are the future or whether they’ve committed a very expensive mistake.”


Thursday, 1 August 2019

Why Independence is the only way to deliver a better life

Support for Welsh Independence is undoubtedly growing. Anyone who attended the first Welsh Independence march in Cardiff in May and the huge march in Caernarfon on Saturday will tell you that the mood in Wales has shifted dramatically. It’s no surprise given the political shambles unfolding across the border and the crumbling of the Westminster system, of course people are beginning to see the obvious, that we can do a better job of governing ourselves. Having Boris Johnson as the new UK PM only serves as yet another reminder that the time has come to chart a different course.
I attended both Independence marches and am looking forward to this movement coming to Wrexham soon, which it inevitably will. Scotland is currently gearing up for a second Independence referendum and the reunification of Ireland is also on the cards, it is vital that Wales is also heard. We cannot afford to be left behind and although we have our own road to travel, the conversation about an Independent Wales has well and truly started.
I want to see an Independent Wales because I know that it is the only way to build the Wales we all want. Generations of being ruled by another country has left our economy weak, our resources exploited and our communities fragmenting. It’s time that changed. With Brexit on the horizon and the UK political system in meltdown, the truth is that we can’t afford not to be Independent.
For those who argue we’re too small, tell that to Ireland, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the list goes on. Studies tell us that small countries are often the most economically successful in the world. There is nothing intrinsic about Wales that means we can’t be equally as prosperous.
For those who tell us we’re to poor, it is only Independence that will deliver the economic tools we need to make Wales wealthier. We need control over all the economic levers in order to develop an economic strategy based around our needs and aspirations. It only makes sense that economic policy developed by people who live in Wales, who work Wales, who are focused on Wales, will create the wealthier nation we all want. Let’s face it, we’ve had London rule for hundreds of years and their track record speaks for itself.
We also urgently need control over our own resources. Wales is a text book example of an extractive economy. Our resources have been systematically exploited for generations, going forward it is vital that key resources such as energy and water are used to benefit our communities here.
I not only want to see an Independent Wales in order to build our economy, I want to see it because we need to go in a different direction socially too. The type of society I want to see in Wales will be centred around fairness, equality and respect. I never again want to see an age of austerity cripple public services thanks to bailing out reckless bankers. I never again want to see the most vulnerable in our communities slip through the net thanks to vile Tory welfare reform policies, designed to dismantle the welfare state. I never again want to see billions of public money spent on nuclear weapons like Trident, whilst people go hungry and sleep on our streets.
As England increasingly moves to the right, Wales needs to be free to set our own political priorities, we need to be guided by our own moral values, we need to be in control of our own future.
Welsh Independence is now becoming a talking point across the country, something genuinely positive and full of potential on which to focus our attention. The uplifting realisation that we do not have to be ruled by mediocrities in either London or Cardiff Bay is a genuine relief. The idea that we ourselves can create the Wales we want opens the door to a new world of possibilities. Understanding that our current set of circumstances might well be the catalyst we’ve long needed to empower ourselves reveals a whole new perspective.
As an internationalist, as someone who believes in progressive politics and in community as the foundation for building our nation, it is clear to me that Welsh Independence is not only desirable, it’s an absolute necessity.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Why the north east of Wales holds the key to Welsh Independence

by Carrie Harper



From the battles to drive off invasions in the ancient Kingdom of Powys Fadog, through to the charge for Welsh Independence from our last Prince Owain Glyndwr, many of the major flash points in our nation’s historic pursuit of freedom and self-determination have erupted in the north east of Wales. Yet so often, our part of Wales has been marginalised.

Celebrated Welsh author John Davies said at a lecture in Mold in 2007:
“There is a tendency – in the south in particular, but also perhaps in the north west – to consider the north east to be a rather detached part of Wales or, indeed, to be more of an adjunct to Merseyside”.
He goes on to describe how many key events in the history of Wales took place in the old county of Clwyd. From our rich history starting with first evidence of human beings in Wales being found in St Asaph, through to Eliseg’s Pillar in Llangollen celebrating the achievements of the Royal house of Powys. He also sets out the cultural achievements and the leading role of the north east in the development of Welsh literature, architecture and Welsh-medium education.

In addition, the roots of the movement that founded the national Eisteddfod are here and also the first trade union branch in Wales was formed among Flintshire ironworkers. We have been integral to the historical and cultural development of our nation.

Despite this central role, the north east has often been marginalised in a myriad of ways. We’ve gone unrecognised in terms of a location for national institutions, something that is only now beginning to be addressed, thanks in part to Plaid Wrexham’s campaign for a national football museum, soon to be located in the town.

We’ve also suffered a failure at all levels of government to recognise the economic importance and potential of the north east in its own right. Despite Wrexham and Flintshire recently being hailed for accounting for a third of Welsh exports, for many years now Labour’s vision for the north east has simply been ‘see the north-west of England’.

This dismissive and submissive approach has sadly also led to local councils displaying a lack of leadership. They have backed the establishment of unaccountable bodies such as the Mersey Dee Alliance. This has the backing of the current Welsh Government despite its stated aim ‘to create a distinctive cross-border region with its own distinct identity’, further attempting to embed the idea that we’re not quite part of Wales.

The practical upshot has been to open the north east up for large-scale housing development to cater for housing demand from across the border, something that is understandably a cause of resentment here.

We have undoubtedly suffered a dereliction of leadership that has allowed our resources to be exploited. What we need now is an economic plan developed for the benefit of communities here, which will be integral for an Independent Wales to thrive.

With the right vision, our pivotal economic position means we have the potential to become the engine of a long-needed north Wales economic power house. A power house that looks to integrate the north east into the north west of Wales and the rest of the country.

We can by all means exploit the economic benefits on offer as a border area, but my word it’s time we did it on our own terms.

Identity

Many people from my part of Wales – long denied our own history, culture and language – still have a fierce pride in being Welsh. For many, it’s difficult to articulate where that comes from, given the relentless attempts to erode our heritage, it’s almost a bit of an enigma considering how close to the border we are.

I have watched that cherished sense of Welsh identity steadily grow over the last decade, in particular in my home town of Wrexham. I have seen it begin to express itself in a growing love of our language and rekindled connection with our nation’s stories and symbols. We’ve seen the development of Saith Seren, a cultural centre promoting the Welsh language, the football team have adopted Yma O Hyd as an anthem and the fans now also belt out Mae hen wlad fy nhadau with as much gusto as any native speaker.

Welsh identity in Wrexham, the most easterly county in Wales, is strong and it’s growing. Still, if you ask a non-Welsh speaker here if they speak Welsh, you will almost always get the same reaction, a slight lowering of the head and a muttering of ‘I wish I did’.

For my generation, this sense of belonging and shared identity that has grown alongside our maturing politics, is always tempered by a sense of loss in being denied our own language and the cultural richness that comes with it. It’s almost as if we’re not quite Welsh enough, a forgotten part of the country.

The combination of these ingredients, our geography, the loss of our heritage and our growing sense of optimism in the kind of Wales that is possible, creates a unique type of energy. There is a sense for many of us here that we have a point to prove. We’re as proud to be Welsh as anyone else, we’ve got plenty of ideas to contribute as we shape our nation’s future and above anything else, we’re still here.

Recognition

I also believe that for the younger generation here the perspective is different again. They’ve grown up with devolution, many have had a Welsh-medium education and conversations about the prospect of an Independent Wales are fairly normal for them in a way they weren’t as I was growing up. It’s a hugely positive shift.

But the key to delivering Welsh independence lies with that somewhat forgotten generation in the middle. It’s the mainly non-Welsh speaking, proud to Welsh, working class communities like mine who will ultimately bring the energy needed to deliver an Independent Wales.

The only question then is how do we reach them. The answer is recognition, it always has been. No part of Wales can be forgotten – especially an area where one in eight of Welsh people live.

The north east of Wales is key because of our history, because of our powerhouse economy and because the unique dynamics that have shaped our communities mean we can ignite this movement.

It’s time to reach out, to reconnect with the Wales that colonialism carved up. These connections don’t need to be created anew, they are already there and deeply rooted but they do need to be acknowledged, to be recognised and fostered.

I marched for independence in Caernarfon yesterday but look forward to inviting the national movement to the cradle of the Welsh nation in the months to come.

Deffro’r Ddraig.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

More urban sprawl: New development on greenfield site in Gresford goes against council's own Local Development Plan

A new development on a greenfield site in Gresford goes against council's own Local Development Plan - yet is being recommended for approval by the same officers who wrote that plan!


It's the latest in a series of recommendations by planners that ignore objections by the council's own expert officers as well as local opinion.

Cllr Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru's Wrexham spokesperson, said: 
"The planning department's recommendation to approve 42 homes on a green field site at Vicarage Lane, Gresford, is another sign that developers are having their own way in Wrexham. There are good highways and environmental arguments why this excellent agricultural land should be maintained yet planners have ignored their own specialist officers' advice - yet again. This site was considered for the Local Development and rejected by the very same planning department only two years ago. What's changed?

"The same flawed arguments were made for 70 homes on Dean Road playing fields in Rhosnesni and a 110-house development in New Broughton last month. We've also seen plans for building on a green field site in Rossett recommended for approval. All three were rejected by councillors on the planning committee and were also rejected as part of the incoming LDP.

"The rationale being used by senior planning officers is that the county borough does not have sufficient housing land supply because it currently doesn't have an active Local Development Plan. This is despite the Welsh Government's then planning minister Lesley Griffiths relaxing the guidelines and stating that arguments for housing land supply should be taken on their individual merit. Instead of acting on this, planners are bending over backwards to help developers build on land that the LDP says should be protected.

"Recent planning recommendations mean that Wrexham is in danger of seeing villages merge into an ugly urban sprawl, losing the green spaces that we all treasure and allowing developers rather than the community to dictate what kinds of housing are built and where. A planning system that provides no protection for our communities is a broken planning system. That's even more the case when you have a planning department hellbent on ignoring some basic guidelines."

The planning committee meeting will take place at The Guildhall at 4pm Monday 29th July.

More info from Vicarage Lane Action Group


Monday, 8 July 2019

Fair play for the North: Fund the Racecourse regeneration!


Support for funding the redevelopment of the Racecourse has snowballed over the weekend with more than a thousand people supporting a petition to Welsh Government.

Plaid Cymru Councillor Carrie Harper, who launched the petition on the back of an announcement in principle last week, said:
"The news last week was a step forward both for the Racecourse and the wider area of Crispin Lane and the railway station. But at the moment they are just aspirations and plans - to make them a reality will take money and a political commitment to invest in this part of Wales.

"It's clear from many of the comments on the petition that many signatories want to see investment from this Labour government more equally spread throughout the country. Time after time, people comment that this would not have taken so long to happen if it had been 'down South'. There's a clear perception, something that's backed up by facts, that the North isn't getting its fair share when it comes to capital spending.

"Whether it's the South Wales Metro, the new convention centre at Newport or funding for yet more conferencing facilities in Cardiff, there's a real danger we are seeing an overconcentration of funding in the south-east corner of Wales. We need some 'chwarae teg', some fair play for the North."

Fellow councillor Marc Jones, who represents the Grosvenor ward surrounding the Racecourse, stressed the need to find the funding after years of broken promises:
"As far back as 2006, we had Labour minister promising 'the Millenium Stadium of the North' and nothing came of it.  
"The purpose of the petition is to ensure this scheme is delivered - for the good of the club, the stadium, the town and the wider region. If this scheme is to work it needs proper funding and that's where the Welsh Government has to step up to the plate. I'd urge people to sign the petition HERE to get the job done. 
"We'll also be collecting names for the petition outside the friendly against Stoke and the opening match of the season on 3rd August."




'Some days I take sleeping pills to get through the hunger'

The plight of Welsh families and Universal Credit



by Carrie Harper

This is a difficult piece to write. It's about the people I grew up with, people who live in my community and went to school with. They're not just statistics to be trotted out.

I'm currently collecting food donations for a family, people I was in school with, as they're completely penniless due to Universal Credit failures that have supercharged levels of poverty in my community.

Representing Queensway, one of the most deprived wards in the country, I see first hand what poverty looks like day in and day out. In the area where I grew up, Caia Park in Wrexham, almost half of children in three of the five Caia wards are living in poverty according to the latest figures. The stories behind these cold stats are often heart breaking but the political ideology driving these increases is quite simply hateful.

Universal Credit in particular has had a major impact. Wrexham went live with Universal Credit in 2017 and 5734 local families are currently on the benefit. Just over a third of those are in work. Over the last two years I’ve seen families lurch from crisis to crisis having to navigate the cruel system designed by the Tories to rip to shreds the welfare safety net that was once in place. It's meant people are falling through the holes in the safety net and hitting the ground hard.

The most recent case I dealt with involved a family who had been through tough times and found themselves in temporary accommodation after losing their home. The woman involved told me what it was like living on next to nothing and having to transfer to Universal Credit. For several weeks at a time, she didn’t have a penny in her bank account and explained how she would take sleeping pills to try and get through the day because she couldn’t afford anything to eat and couldn’t stand the hunger.

I’ve also worked with a local working mum who described her experience of Universal Credit as ‘the worst thing that had ever happened to her and her family’. She described mistake after mistake, which meant she lost hundreds thanks to wages being miscalculated by the DWP, who then refused to reimburse her for the errors. The botched calculations resulted in the family relying on food donations to survive.

Food bank usage locally has risen by 20%, with almost 5000 emergency food parcels being handed out last year, the local foodbank attribute the rise directly to the introduction of Universal Credit.

And that's just the official food bank. Other charities have also emerged to help with the crisis - a volunteer-led scheme called Given to Shine collects surplus food from local supermarkets and shops and re-distributes it along with free sanitary products to families in Wrexham and Flintshire. Again, they tell me Universal Credit is directly responsible for poverty rises.

One of the saddest experiences I have ever had was volunteering for this charity on Christmas Eve and seeing local families queueing at the church in the dark with their children to collect food donations. Given to Shine now delivers more than 8000 food parcels a year, including 500 at Christmas.

Unless you’re directly involved, much of this poverty goes unseen. I often hear people ignorantly claim it doesn’t exist at all but I see it all the time. The bottom line though is that it shouldn’t exist in Wales or anywhere else in the UK in 2019.

The fact that Wales is seeing a rise in child poverty while countries like Scotland are heading in the other direction makes it clear that we need to break free of the shackles of the UK Government’s failing welfare policies and this vile Tory ideology, which is plummeting people into the abyss. I want to see welfare policy devolved so we can start to improve the lives of the next generation rather than condemning them to poverty.

As things stand, I have no faith that this current Labour Government in Cardiff will make a difference and we all know Westminster Tories couldn’t care less. That’s why we urgently need to see a change in government and put Plaid Cymru in power, so that we can tackle these issues head-on and take Welsh communities in a new direction. The Wales I want, the one we all need to build, won’t let anyone slip through the net.


Friday, 5 July 2019

Support the Racecourse Regeneration - back our petition

Plaid Cymru has launched a petition to ensure funding to develop the Kop end of the Racecourse as part of a wider masterplan for the Mold Road Gateway.
The petition expresses support for the Racecourse Regeneration to create a 5,000-seater stand with appropriate conferencing and exhibition facilities on Crispin Lane.
But this will come to nothing if it's not properly funded. Similar projects in the Cardiff and Newport areas have been supported by the Welsh Government, which recently spent £22 million on a 50% stake in a Conference Centre near the Celtic Manor Hotel.
Cllr Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru's councillor for the area surrounding the Racecourse, said:
"As a season-ticket holder and local councillor for this part of Wrexham, I want to see this development succeed. If done properly, it will transform the derelict area behind the Kop and provide additional income for the football club for years to come. 
"To make this a reality, Plaid Cymru is calling on the Welsh Government and other parties to stump up the necessary funding to regenerate the Racecourse and build a 5,000-seater stand with new conferencing and exhibition facilities." 
Please support our petition to the Welsh Government to ensure it's funded properly and is not another project that gathers dust on the shelf:

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Racecourse regeneration - let’s see the money

In response to the unveiling of a Gateway Masterplan for the Mold Rd and Crispin Lane, Cllr Marc Jones, local councillor for the area, said: "This is the major route into town both by road and rail. It's also an opportunity to regenerate the Racecourse and develop derelict land behind the Crispin Lane end of the ground as well as providing an integrated transport hub.

"That all costs money and we need to see the Welsh Government and others investing substantial amounts in the capital of the North. There's been enough talk of a millenium stadium for the North - well, we're 19 years into the millenium and we've still only got a three-sided Racecourse. Together with new club facilities, conferencing, food and accommodation as well as a national football museum that would attracts tens of thousands of new visitors to the area, it could be a transformational project if we are ambitious.

"Vision and ambition is also important with the transport hub - I'd struggle to see how that could be justified with the poor level of bus and train services as they are. Wrexham and its surrounding areas need regular, reliable and connected public transport to ease traffic congestion and encourage more sustainable green travel. A transport hub will help that but bus services also needs revenue funding over the medium and long-term.

"The cancelling of the M4 project means there is capital available for investment. Let's use a proportion of that to regenerate this gateway to Wrexham but we also need to improve the year-on-year funding pot for public transport. The funding for the Bus Subsidy Support Grant for the whole of Wales has remained static at £25 million for the past six years under this Government.

"The Welsh Government and others need to show the colour of their money now if this scheme is to move from an aspiration to reality.

"It's vital that the people behind the masterplan get it right and I will give my full support for it if they do."