Sunday, 11 March 2018

Women’s International Day at the Stiwt, Rhosllanerchrugog.

This was my opening address at the Women’s International Day held at the Stiwt, Rhosllanerchrugog, on the 8th March 2018:

Pnawn da a chroeso i chi gyd yma i’r Stiwt i ddathlu Diwrnod Rhyngwladol y Menywod, yn union gan mlynedd ar ol pasio deddfwriaeth roddodd y bleidlais i bob dyn ac ambell i ferch dros 30. Proses a dim digwyddiad tuag at gyfartaledd oedd y ddeddfwriaeth hanesyddol yny, a da ni’n dal ar y siwrna hir.

Good afternoon and welcome to the Stiwt, an unbeatable location with a radical and progressive past for us to celebrate International Women’s Day. This year we are celebrating the success of the Suffragette movement, in their partial victory in getting some women and ALL men the vote, a 100 years ago and to borrow Ron Davies’s description of devolution, gender equality is a process not an event; and trust me, we have some way to go until we achieve 50/50 participation, respect and equal sharing of power.

We all remember the names that will be screened later, Emily Pankhurst and the tragic Emily Davidson, but there are others whose names have been forgotten. One in particular, Kitty Marion who had links with Wrexham. One of Kitty’s many arrests was at the 1912 National Eisteddfod in Wrexham, when she had the audacity to heckle Wales’s hero, the Chanchellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, whilst he was in full flow. Less than 6 months later, the Suggragettes had bombed Lloyd George’s partially built summer home in Surrey. It is quite ironic that the first Welsh female MP was in fact his daughter, Megan Lloyd George in 1928.

Kitty Marion was undeterred by her numerous arrests and the fact that she was forcibly fed on more than 200 occasions whilst in prison.

After the war, Kitty Marion emigrated to the US, where she was arrested a further 9 occasions for encouraging women to use birth control and she was instrumental in establishing the first birth control clinic in the US.

She was a lady worthy of being remembered.

Fel gwleidydd lleol dwi a diddordeb mewn cynyddu y nifer o fenywod mewn byways cyhoeddus yng Nghymru. Allan o’r 22 Cyngor yng Nghymru dim on 28% o Gynghorwyr sydd yn fenywod a phedair Arweinydd a chwech dirprwy arweinyddion. Dydy y sefyllfa yma ddim yn normal; mae angen cynrychiolaeth mewn bywyd cyhoeddus sydd yn gyfartal ar ganran yn y boblogaeth, sef 50/50.

Mae y gyngres yn yr Ariannin sydd a deddfwriaeth fel fod dynion a menywod a chyfartaledd ar un cyfleuoedd o gael ei hethol

As a local politician I am very interested in increasing women’s participation in public life and to
address the woefully low numbers of females in public life in Wales where representation is best described as ‘male, stale and pale’ and that includes Wrexham Council who has one female cabinet member out of 10. Only 20% of Councillors in Wrexham are female even though we make up 50% of the population. The picture across Wales is slightly better but only 4 Council’s out of 22 have female leaders.

Every year we celebrate International Women’s Day with a different theme and this year it is to Press For Progress and we all need to undertake to do something to bring about gender equality, or as we say on St David’s Day “Gwnewch y pethau bychain”or do the little things which when brought together brings about social change.

For myself I intend to campaign for gender equality in public life by questioning the lack of women’s participation, nominate women for public positions, aim for a goal of 50/50 gender balance and and finally to create a more inclusive opportunities especially changes in legislation to ensure gender balance in election lists. If they can have gender parity in Argentina there is no reason why we can’t
do it in Wales.

I am going to finish off with a quote from Sian Gwenllian who is an inspiration herself having been widowed in her early thirties with four young children. She became involved in local politics and was a County Councillor and Deputy Leader before being elected an Assembly member for Arfon.

“This International Women’s Day we should commit to create a a Wales where sexual harrassment and domestic abuse is outlawed and where workplace and pay inequalities are not tolerated and where women and men can follow their ambitions and dreams, free from the constraints of the gender straightjackets imposed on us for far too long.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Boosting community enterprises in Wrexham

Wrexham is the co-operative capital of Wales.

That bold claim was made at an Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny Committee meeting yesterday by Cllr Marc Jones, of Plaid Cymru.

Wrexham AFC, Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, Caia Park Partnership, Saith Seren, Glan Wylfa in Chirk and Brymbo Heritage were all cited as community-run enterprises contributing hugely to the local economy.

The committee agreed to investigate ways to better support start-up businesses and, in particular, community enterprises and co-ops that increasingly fill the gaps being left by both the public and private sector in our communities.

Tonight there's a meeting in Wrexham to discuss a new community project inspired by this scheme in Edinburgh. Hopefully that can also flourish as the town earns its reputation as co-operative capital of Wales.
The Remakery in Edinburgh, where old goods are re-used and put to good use again
 with craftspeople passing on their skills to a new generation.

Welsh Government should pay £203,000 to Wrexham Council for Local Development Plan delay

The Welsh Government should pay £203,000 to Wrexham Council for the extra cost of having to create a new Local Development Plan.
The proposed new village between Ruthin Road and Bersham 
The call by Plaid Cymru councillors comes after the council's LDP2 was unveiled. It will go out to consultation if, as expected, it's approved by the council's executive board on Tuesday.

Plaid Cymru's group leader Marc Jones said:
"The original LDP was approved in 2012 and rejected by the Welsh Government because, they said, it didn't allocate enough land for housing over the 15-year period of the plan. The original plan aimed to provide for 7,700 houses while the Welsh Government was insisting on between 11-13,000 dwellings.
"At the time, Plaid Cymru warned that the Welsh Government's intransigence would cause problems and local AMs Ken Skates and Lesley Griffiths must accept their part in creating this problem. Their government's insistence on thousands of extra homes has now been shown to be completely out of kilter with reality - the new LDP opts for a far more modest sum of 8,500 that is far closer to the original plan.
"So the council has effectively been forced to go round in circles on this at a cost of £203,000 because the Welsh Government doesn't know what it's doing. They should have the good grace to apologise and compensate the council for this extra cost at a time when essential services are being cut."

Plaid Cymru has been consistent in wanting to see new housing developments limited to brownfield sites rather than creating huge new commuter estates on the fringes of town that will put greater pressure on already stretched services.

The new plan intends to allocate two new sites on the Cefn Road and Ruthin Road for more than 1,000 homes each.

Cllr Jones said:
"These will be huge commuter estates the size of small villages. Our concern is that, on past performance, developers will not fully contribute what is necessary to create the infrastructure to support such large developments: schools, roads, health provision and other services. That's why we have been consistent in our support for smaller developments and to ensure greenfield sites and playing fields are protected for generations to come."

One other damaging aspect of the LDP being delayed for six years by the Welsh Government is that developers have been able to claim the council does not have an adequate housing land supply. Because of this, the 365 houses in Llay were given the go-ahead by planning inspectors. Again, Welsh ministers and local AMs who were complicit in this should hang their heads in shame.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

First Minister quizzed over loss of independent living grant for disabled

The case for disabled people wanting to maintain their independent living was raised in the Senedd today with questions to First Minister Carwyn Jones.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant is due to come to an end next year and responsibility for ensuring disabled people can live independently will be transferred to local councils.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM, asked:
"Disabled people have told me that they appreciate their independence more than the money provided by the current Welsh Independent Living Grant. What assurances can you give them that this independence will continue when the WILG comes to an end?"
Mr Jones responded by saying that his government would monitor the actions of local government and individuals would be assessed to provide assurances.

Mr Gruffydd said he was disappointed that the First Minister did not appreciate the importance of disabled people having choice and control over their own lives, something that the WILG helped ensure:
"I'm afraid I have little faith that the transition to councils that are already stretched to the limit in so many ways will work smoothly. The First Minister said time and again that his government would monitor the transition, but evidence from London shows that a similar transition has been disastrous and they should heed that evidence.
"In Scotland and Northern Ireland they've maintained the fund and the independence that it allows, which has been a success. I question why this Labour Government is putting people in Wales through that uncertainty and pain when we have a model we could emulate in Scotland?"
 A determined campaign has been run to save the WILG by author and journalist Nathan Lee Davies, of Wrexham. He said:
"I would like to thank Llyr Gruffydd AM for raising the issue of the Welsh Independent Living Grant at the Senedd. Without WILG my independence would be severely curtailed and I would be totally reliant on my penny-pinching local authority, which has already threatened a severe reduction of my care and support should the grant close.
"It is important that disabled people are able to live their lives independently so that they can continue to contribute to their local communities."

Friday, 2 March 2018

Councillor's concern over new secure rehab unit in town centre

'We've been conned over new private hospital'

A Wrexham councillor has raised concerns about local residents being kept in the dark about a new "secure rehabilitation hospital" on Grosvenor Road called Ty Grosvenor.

The privately run hospital opposite the JobCentre is nearing completion after months of building work and is due to receive its first patients in April.

Plaid Cymru councillor Marc Jones, who represents the Grosvenor ward, said: 
"This development was granted permission two years ago and my understanding was that there was initially a planning application for the site as a dementia unit 
"The building has since been sold on to Montpelier Estates, which has obtained planning permission for a 'care home' and built the unit for Elysium Healthcare. 
"It now transpires that it will be a secure rehabilitation hospital for 34 men aged 18-65 with psychiatric issues such as schizophrenia and psychosis. Many will have been self-medicating with illegal drugs and have been in secure units such as Heddfan. There is clearly a need for such units but I have to question whether the location is suitable both for the patients it will house and local residents.

"I was told by the manager that patients will only be allowed out unsupervised when they're deemed fit but the proximity of other sites where the temptation to lapse will be high is a huge concern. I'm not sure Elysium Healthcare is aware of the location's sensitivity. Vulnerable patients could be targetted by drug dealers locally, who will doubtless see this as a new potential market, and there is a likelihood of patients absconding.

"Yet again, we're seeing an over-concentration of services in a very small ward close to residential areas and this is having a huge impact on local people's well-being.

"Referrals to this new hospital will be coming from Betsi Cadwaladr health board and other health trusts, I'm told. I'd like to know to what extent this will cater for Wrexham residents, the wider north Wales region or beyond. My concern is that the Grosvenor Road area and Rhosddu is, once again, being seen as a dumping ground without regard for either the people receiving treatment or local residents.

"The fact that local residents - including myself - have been kept in the dark is deeply worrying.

"Since finding out about this change of use, I've raised concerns with the planning department, adult social care and with Betsi Cadwaladr health board because it appears we as local residents have not been made aware of the actual purpose of this building. The council's adult social care has confirmed it was unaware of the secure rehab element as was the planning department.
"I'm grateful for the planning department for its response, which is to query whether the relevant planning permission is in place for a secure site. I am pressing for a new and full planning application so that this can be discussed openly and transparently.

"It's clear from officers' recommendations back in 2016 that the original planning application was not intended to be for this clientele. The planning recommendation states: 'The development will make a valuable contribution to accommodation for elderly residents'. (Planning case number P/2015/0900)
"As a result. local opposition to the development was limited to parking matters. I don't think that would have been the case had it not been specifically sold to us as a dementia unit. I don't think the location is right for either the patients or local residents."
Cllr Jones said the hospital should not open without the relevant planning permission for a secure rehab unit:
"Local residents will rightly feel conned because they've been kept in the dark over this development. My inquiries with council officers confirm they were also unaware of the secure rehab element.
"It's just not good enough for Betsi Cadwaladr health board, private firms and other agencies to continually ignore local concerns in this area."

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Gutless Tory attack on Plaid Cymru councillors in Wrexham

In a statement on behalf of the Plaid Cymru group responding to the Tory attack on Plaid Cymru, Cllr Marc Jones said:
"It's understandable that the Tories should try to deflect attention from their coalition budget's attacks on the disabled, young and vulnerable by attacking the party that they know provides a challenge to them at every step.
"The reason certain Tories dislike us so much is because we threaten their perks - we have made our views known on the need to cut the Executive Board, councillors' allowances and paying for iPads. Perhaps that's why we're being singled out for attack now.
"Plaid Cymru had to fight tooth and nail to have these budget proposals scrutinised and discover the extent of the cuts. We voted along with other opposition councillors against the budget because it was bad for Wrexham and our people.
"If the Tories are so proud of their cuts budget - a direct result of a UK Tory government that attacks public services but turns a blind eye to billionaires and bankers offshoring their profits - why are they not concentrating on that?
"Instead of these increasingly desperate attacks on Plaid, let's hear them defend the budget they voted for and let's see them turn up for those PR opportunities with young musicians who have lost their funding, the disabled who will have to pay more to park than those councillors who voted for this budget and the schools that will have to make teachers or teaching assistants redundant.
"We're used to the Tories hiding behind aliases when it comes to snide attacks on Plaid and it's quite amusing to see Tory councillors hiding behind Don Sturgeon now. Please have the courage of your convictions in future.
"We know the Tories have no heart when it comes to protecting public services. Now we know they've got no guts either."

Monday, 12 February 2018

Plaid Cymru AM makes case for fairer funding

North Wales left out in cold by Labour’s economic plan 

Llyr Gruffydd AM: Fair funding is all we’re asking for. This year we’ll once again be missing out another £26 million in capital spending in the North

Plaid Cymru Shadow Secretary for the Economy, Adam Price AM has this week obtained new figures showing that some parts of Wales are funded over three times more per head than others.

The figures were obtained from the Welsh Government in response to a written questions submitted by Adam Price AM in mid-January. They show the 2017-18 capital spend forecast for each Welsh region – ranging from £102 per head in Mid & West Wales to £380 in South Wales East.

Adam Price AM said that the figures showed not so much an “investment gap but an investment gulf” between the various regions of Wales and called for “a radical rebalancing of the Welsh economy” through a Regional Renewal Bill:
“The Welsh Government’s own figures show how the Labour party’s economic plan is engineering inequality. There is not so much an investment gap but an investment gulf between the regions of Wales, with South-east Wales being funded a staggering £232 more per head in 2017-18 than the North.
 “This is not just a new phenomenon either. The average annual capital spend per head between 2013 and 2017 was £156.50 in north Wales and £236.75 in South-east Wales. In fact, every region other than the South east is forecast to be funded less than what would be national average based on population. These figures highlight the dire need for a radical rebalancing of the Welsh economy. Plaid Cymru’s all-Wales agenda has the principle of spreading prosperity and opportunity at its heart.
 “The Welsh Government should bring in a Regional Renewal Bill that would prioritise deprived areas for investment, similar to what happens in Germany. We cannot allow this Labour government to turn Wales into a micro-UK – overheating one economic region at the expense of the others.”
Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd added:

 “Fair funding is all we’re asking for. This year we’ll once again be missing out another £26 million in capital spending in the North - on top of similar sums for the past five years. That could go a long way to improving our schools, hospitals and other vital parts of the public sector. 
 "This rotten Labour Government is not playing fair with every part of Wales – we urgently need a party that can govern for every part of the country. Plaid Cymru has made it clear that we’d legislate to ensure that fairness and that’s the message the North wants to hear.”


SWW - 538,582
MWW - 577,849
NW - 632,853
SWE - 639,466
SWC - 703,286

Regional spending 2017-18 = £618,370,000 (5 regions excluding all Wales spending)

2017-8 Forecast per head “fair spending”  = £618.37m / 3,092,036 = £199.98



Mid & West
SW East
SW Central
SW West
2013-2017 per head total
2013-2017 per head annual average

2017-18 forecast per head
£158.50 (+£1.65)
£102.63 (-£14.08)
£380.77 (£143.97)
£189.11 (-£5.46)
£152.71 (-£14.98)


Mid & West
SW East
SW Central
SW West

Actual 2017-18 Forecast






‘Fair’ 2017-18 Forecast (based on £199.98 per head*)






* Calculated
Total 2017-18 Forecast / Population = per head expenditure
£618,366,158 / 3,092,036 = £199.98

Friday, 9 February 2018

Councillors meet hospital bosses over parking problems

Parking causing problems for people in wheelchairs (c) Wrexham Leader
Plaid Cymru councillors met with Wrexham Maelor hospital bosses today to discuss the ongoing problem with parking on the site.

 Cllr Marc Jones, leader of the Plaid's Wrexham group, said:
"Many people have been in touch with us about the worsening parking problems at the Maelor, which affects staff, outpatients and visitors alike.
 "We wanted to discuss the matter with hospital bosses to see if there was a solution. Councillor Carrie Harper and I met with Graham Alexander and Iolo Jones at the hospital, where both were frank in admitting that the problem had intensified in recent months."
It's believed that the hospital has a shortage of about 200 car parking spaces at peak times, leading to people parking illegally, missing appointments or even parking in Morrisons and walking.

Cllr Jones said:
"We put forward some suggestions but the lack of capital to develop a multi-storey car park or a barrier system was cited.
"We were agreed on the need for better bus services to serve the hospital, both in terms of green travel but also to reduce the number of cars. There are plans to look at sites for a park and ride as well, which would also help to reduce pressure on the existing car parks.
"There was an acknowledgement that the number of people arriving by bus had reduced considerably over the last few years and that's as a result of reducing services in and around the town. We urgently need to re-think our bus services to make sure public transport is working for the public to get them where they want to go."
Parking problems were, he said, being made worse by people misusing the site as a base to leave their cars while travelling to work or shop elsewhere. But the councillors were also told that growing use of the hospital was also putting extra pressure on the parking.

Cllr Jones added:
"Changes on the site will soon add a few more spaces for parking but, in the medium term, we believe that a more radical re-think is needed. Missed appointments cost money and people arriving an hour early to make sure of finding a space just compounds the problem. It was somewhat ironic to hear that a prominent politician was 20 minutes late to a hospital visit today because she couldn't find anywhere to park.
"Parking doesn't score highly in terms of health board spending priorities and that's understandable when there are new theatres to build or waiting lists to reduce. But car parking at the hospital needs to be sorted before it becomes a crisis."

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Plaid AM challenges Welsh Government over plans to build housing on greenfield sites

Plans for 365 houses on green fields near Llay 
‘Wildly inaccurate’ population projections under fire

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd has raised concerns about the way councils are being forced to permit more housing developments by the Welsh Government based on “wildly inaccurate” population projections.

Mr Gruffydd raised the matter of Local Development Plans in questions to the cabinet secretary responsible for planning Lesley Griffiths, the Wrexham AM. He pointed out that: 
“the mid-year population estimates are showing clearly that the projections that have been used as a basis for many of these local development plans are clearly incorrect. In Wrexham's case, the population projection back in 2014 was for an increase of around 1,200 people in population by mid 2016.
"We now find, of course, that the increase has actually been four - not 4% but just four people. Now, clearly, that basis is fundamentally flawed in relation to the LDPs that we do have. They're wildly inaccurate, but they still remain the basis for the LDPs that have been reviewed or that are currently in place.
“Will you agree with me that this inherent flaw in the LDPs is leading to an overestimation in terms of population, which in turn means that there will be more and largely unnecessary developments in terms of greenfield areas, in places, for example, where you yourself have opposed such schemes, in places such as Llay, in the past?”
 Ms Griffiths responded by saying it was unfortunate Wrexham council did not have an LDP in place but was challenged further on the matter in relation to Flintshire and Conwy councils.

Mr Gruffydd added: 
“There’s a deep inconsistency here. On the one hand, the cabinet secretary says she wants development to be based on a robust plan but the Labour Government has already forced three of the six north Wales councils to amend or re-write their LDPs because they don’t provide for enough housing. The rationale for increasing the number of houses were the Government’s own population projections, which have proven to be wildly inaccurate when measured against the reality.

“Welsh communities need a planning system that works for them rather than a Labour Government that bases plans on flawed figures that effectively allow developers a free rein when it comes to building on greenfield sites. The cabinet secretary was vocal enough when it came to plans to build 365 houses on green fields near Llay in her own constituency so let’s see some consistency.”
Transcript of questions by Llyr Gruffydd to Lesley Griffiths

Llyr Gruffydd AM
Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on local development plans in North Wales? OAQ51551

Diolch. There are five adopted local development plans in north Wales, with Wrexham County Borough Council and Flintshire County Council expected to adopt their plans by 2020. Conwy County Borough Council and Denbighshire County Council are due to commence a review of their respective LDPs, and I've recently invited them to prepare a joint plan instead.78

The mid-year population estimates are showing clearly that the projections that have been used as a basis for many of these local development plans are clearly incorrect. In Wrexham's case, the population projection back in 2014 was for an increase of around 1,200 people in population by mid 2016. We now find, of course, that the increase has actually been four—not 4 per cent; four people. Now, clearly, that basis is fundamentally flawed in relation to the LDPs that we do have. They're wildly inaccurate, but they still remain the basis for the LDPs that have been reviewed or that are currently in place. So, will you agree with me that this inherent flaw in the LDPs is leading to an overestimation in terms of population, which in turn means that there will be more and largely unnecessary developments in terms of greenfield areas, in places, for example, where you yourself have opposed such schemes, in places such as Llay, in the past?

I am absolutely committed to a plan-led approach to development across Wales. I think it's really important that local authorities bring forward their LDPs. It's unfortunate - and you mention my own constituency of Wrexham in particular—it's very unfortunate that they haven't had an LDP in place. I wouldn't say they're flawed. I think the difficulty around LDPs is that they have to be constantly under review, and I think, going forward, we need to move away from LDPs and have more strategic development plans. Certainly, that's the work that's ongoing. My chief planning officer is currently going round Wales meeting with all local authorities, but I think we need to have those plans in place to make sure that we have the decision making, but of course the information needs to be correct, so that the decision making then is as appropriate as possible.

In October, the leader of Conwy council wrote to you stating that the Welsh Government's removal of the past building rate methodology from the calculation of land supply process had significantly undermined local development plans across Wales, rendering councils unable to defend speculative development applications that put the wrong houses in the wrong places. The only reason Wrexham doesn't have an LDP is because they'd nearly completed their LDP, but the Welsh Government told them to start again because they didn't have enough houses, and we've just heard from my colleague across the Chamber what resulted from that.
In December, you wrote to me saying that the underlying cause of Flintshire's exposure to speculative planning applications was their failure to adopt an LDP, and adding, you said that Flintshire is one of the few local planning authorities in Wales still to adopt an LDP and is likely to be the last authority to do so. So, which is the problem? Is it the failure by county councils to produce LDPs or does Conwy council have a point?

It's really important that local planning authorities have their five-year land supply and you referred to a letter I sent you before Christmas. The problem is when they don't have those five-year land supplies, we see developers coming in with very speculative applications. So, I think it's really important and I don't want to talk about specific plans because, obviously, our powers in the development process means that I can't. But I think, looking at it on a case-by-case way, when a Member writes to me, I respond in that way. So, if I wrote to you about Conwy, that's what I stand by; if I wrote to you about Flintshire, that's what I stand by, also.