Thursday, 27 July 2017

The Chief Executive and the Living Wage

Plaid Cymru councillors have issued a statement about the departure of Wrexham's chief executive to start a new job in Walsall:
"We wish Dr Paterson well in her new post in Walsall.
"The departure of Wrexham Council's chief executive is an opportunity to re-think our pay structures. Plaid Cymru wants Wrexham Council to work towards the real Living Wage, currently £8.45 an hour, for all workers. There are currently around 2400 staff being paid below that level, about 40% of all council workers. Many are part-time and are overwhelmingly women.
"As a start, Plaid Cymru's group of councillors is proposing that the two strategic directors currently below the chief executive become joint chief executives rather than replacing Dr Paterson when she leaves. This arrangement worked when the previous chief executive left and could be made permanent, saving £100,000 a year. This could be used as a first step to ensure all council workers are paid the real Living Wage."

It has benefits in terms of reducing absentee levels, retention of staff and the costs of recruitment.

Other councils such as Gwynedd, Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Tâf and Caerffili are working towards this goal. Wrexham should do the same.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Government passing the buck over investment in The Racecourse

The need to invest in developing The Racecourse as a venue for international sport and live music events has been raised in the Assembly chamber.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said the Welsh Government was actively calling for and investing in major events arenas in Cardiff and Newport. He asked cabinet secretary Ken Skates why his government wasn’t as pro-active in promoting and investing in Wrexham's Racecourse stadium.

Ken Skates, in response, stated: 
“All of us would like to see The Racecourse receive investment to become a more active and vibrant hub in the community. My officials recently met with Wrexham Football Trust* – they discussed the vision for The Racecourse. The key significance will be the role local council plays in devising a master plan for the town to ensure that any development aligns with any other development in the area. “The Racecourse deserves to have the investment – that will only come as a result of a sound business case and a very clear vision.”
Mr Gruffydd commented: 
“I’m incredibly disappointed with this response. In recent weeks Mr Skates has been vocal in arguing for new investment in major events arenas for Newport and Cardiff. There the Government has seen fit to take a lead, which is completely in order. 
“But when it comes to advocating and arguing for a similar major event arena here in the North we see him pass the buck to the local council. 
 “It seems this Labour Government is failing to show the same commitment to economic development, sports facilities and entertainment hubs here in the North as it is in the South.”
Mr Gruffydd has also sought assurances that Wrexham will be the location for a new national football museum.

He questioned Ken Skates on plans for a major feasibility study into the matter: 
“I welcome the Welsh Government’s decision to commission a feasibility study into a National Football museum for Wales, as agreed in the budget agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Government last year. It’s long overdue and I’m confident that such a museum will be able to reflect past and future successes in the Beautiful Game. With that in mind, can the minister explain how a commitment to look into a football museum located in the North has become a feasibility study into a sports museum somewhere in Wales? I’m not the only person to sense a change in direction and alarm bells are ringing.” 
Mr Skates confirmed that the study would consider a sports museum and also look at options in all parts of Wales, but also stated that the preferred option was to locate it in Wrexham or elsewhere in the North.

Mr Gruffydd said later: 
“Like many people who believe a new national football museum for Wales should be based in Wrexham, I’m concerned that the brief has been altered. Moving the goalposts like this will only raise doubts about the Labour Government’s commitment to this important strategic project. Wrexham is where the FA of Wales was established, the home of early internationals and it’s home to the third oldest club in the world. It's the spiritual home of Welsh football and a national museum would provide a substantial economic boost to the area. 
Wrexham Council already has an extensive collection of Welsh football memorabilia that's been on show recently at the town's museum and I'd like to see that collection on permanent display for fans to be able to see.  
England has a national football museum in Manchester, Scotland has one in Glasgow and it makes perfect sense to locate our national museum in Wrexham. As well as recognising the historic importance of the area in developing football in Wales, it would also re-balance the economic benefits towards the North."


* We assume Mr Skates means the Wrexham Supporters' Trust.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Fire service chiefs want council's money - but fail to attend key meeting

Plaid Cymru campaigners at the forefront of last year's march to save our fire engine
A key Wrexham Council meeting to discuss proposed cuts to local fire services went ahead today WITHOUT the presence of anyone from the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service. 
This is despite the NWFRS expecting Wrexham Council, along with the five other councils in the North, to fund its service for the coming three years. It also wants the council to back cuts in service that will leave the borough with just one whole-time fire engine and lose 24 full-time firefighters' jobs.
 The all-member workshop had hoped to question senior officers from the Fire Service about the proposal to cut one of Wrexham's two whole-time fire appliances.
 There was a strong objection to the way the consultation was framed, with councillors expressing frustration that the same cuts were rejected clearly in last year's consultation and that this wasn't offering anything new. 
 Serious questions will now be posed for the NWFRS including:
• Why have they employed more senior officers while cutting frontline firefighters?
• Are the four senior fire officers - which cost £500,000 - needed when similar sized fire services make do on less?
• Has the NWFRS examined its vehicle purchasing policy?
• The failure to budget properly in the medium term has led to a shortfall that could have been avoided.
• Why was £600,000 moved from revenue accounts to the capital account, thus making the shortfall in the budget to run the service greater?
• Wrexham has 25% of all call-outs but not 25% of all appliances in the North. Can cuts be justified here?
• If these cuts go ahead, are there sufficient firefighters to operate specialist equipment such as the Aerial Ladder Platform based in Wrexham?

The point was also forcefully made that the new Ambulance and Fire centre in Wrexham has cost £15m, with £6m coming from the NWFRS. It has eight bays for fire appliances but, if the NWFRS has its way, could only have two fire engines to fill them!

NWFRS has done itself no favours today and there is growing resistance to any plan to cut the service in Wrexham.




Thursday, 13 July 2017

Community council rejects "skewed" consultation on fire engine cuts

Last night's meeting of Rhosddu Community Council agreed to support Councillor Marc Jones's motion rejecting the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority plan to cut one of Wrexham's two fire engines and shed 24 firefighter jobs.
 
The decision came after councillors discussed the Fire Authority's consultation document, which they rejected as "skewed" and intending to lead consultees in a specific direction.

Cllr Marc Jones, of Plaid Cymru, said: 
"There was a clear feeling that the consultation was designed with only one option on the table. Wrexham has a 1,000 call-outs a year - a quarter of all those in the North - and this would stretch our crews beyond the limit. 
"Rhosddu CC agreed that any shortfall in funding should be made up by cutting the Fire Authority's senior fire officers and ensuring increased contributions by the six county councils. 
"We all value our firefighters, who risk life and limb to save other people."

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

North Wales has lost 132 police officers since 2010

Plaid Cymru attacks Tory cuts to policing

Devolution of policing would deliver £25 million boost to Welsh police forces

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts, has criticised the UK Government for imposing sustained cuts to the police forces since 2010.

There are 750 fewer police officers in Wales now than there were in 2010, equivalent to a 10% drop since the Tories took office. North Wales Police has 132 fewer officers – an 8% fall in numbers in just seven years.

Now Plaid Cymru is calling for the devolution of policing to ensure more police officers on the beat.

Figures provided by Dyfed Powys Police show that if policing in Wales was funded on the basis of population, they would be better off by £25 million per year. Devolving policing to Wales, bringing Wales into line with Scotland and northern Ireland, would ensure that policing would be funded through the Barnett Formula, which is based on population, rather than the UK Government’s police funding formula.

The UK Government also intends on reforming its police funding formula which, if implemented, would deliver a further £32 million cut to the Welsh police forces.

Devolving policing could therefore protect the Welsh police forces from Westminster’s £32 million cut and instead deliver a £25 million boost to their finances.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said:

“The fall in police numbers is being felt acutely in certain communities here in the North, where anti-social behaviour is on the rise and there’s a feeling that police can’t cope. Losing one in every 12 police officers in the last seven years would stretch any organization and it’s clear that frontline policing has suffered as a result of Tory cuts and UK central government policies.”

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Plaid Cymru’s leader in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts asked the Prime Minister:

“Police officer numbers in Wales have dropped by 10 per cent since her party came to power.

“If policing were devolved – as it is in northern Ireland and Scotland – Welsh forces would have extra funding worth £25 million at their disposal. This would more than replace those lost officers.

“What justification is there for refusing to devolve policing?”

The Prime Minister responded:

“We’ve been round this discussion before but can I just address the central issue of what the honourable lady is talking about which is about police budgets and is about the number of police officers.

“We are currently protecting police budgets, we’ve been doing that since 2015.

“That, I believe is acknowledged across the House and we’ve not just protected those police budgets – we are ensuring that the Police have the capabilities they need to deal with new types of crime - creating the National Cybercrime unit, creating the National Crime Agency – these are all important steps to ensure the Police can do their job of cutting crime and crime is at a record low.”

Elms expansion gets approval - local concerns ignored



Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board submitted a new plan to expand The Elms on the Rhosddu Road roundabout back in February. The centre provides drug and alcohol services. That extension was refused by Wrexham Council's planning committee.

On Monday, the health board came back with an amended plan - which didn't involve an extension at the back but a reconfiguration of offices inside and new windows on the upper floors. This new scheme has been approved.

Local Grosvenor councillor Marc Jones said:
"I spoke out at a planning committee as a local resident back in February against plans to extend The Elms. That extension was rejected but, as a result, I was advised that I couldn't take part in the debate on this latest application, which is deeply frustrating as a new councillor.

"My views are unchanged. The health board is willing to spend £2 million on expanding services in The Elms but is unwilling to engage with local people and elected representatives.

"I want them to understand that concentrating so many services in a small residential area is having a huge impact on the well-being of the wider population but also on jobs and small businesses in the immediate area.

"It's irresponsible to refuse to face up to the situation that's developed in recent years and simply maintaining the problem rather than looking for a solution is not what the NHS should be about. It's a very complex picture and the people needing help and treatment all have different needs, but that's precisely why the health board should be engaging with local people rather than trying to get its way by tinkering with planning guidelines.

"The speed with which they've managed to put in an appeal and submit a completely new planning application is in marked contrast to their speed in dealing with the problems Rhosddu residents face day to day.

"Wrexham's planning committee was right to reject the first planning application and found it had no narrow planning grounds to reject this new amended plan. The wider issue of increased anti-social behaviour and a failure to deal with the problem has not been addressed by the health board."

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

'Bring football home to Wrexham'

Ex-miner turned "Welsh wizard" Billy Meredith

Any new national football museum for Wales should be based in Wrexham, according to campaigners who believe the north-east is the sport's "spiritual home".

The call comes as the Welsh Government announces plans for a feasibility study in to the scheme.

The study was part of a comprehensive deal struck last year with Plaid Cymru, which has long campaigned for a national football museum to be based in Wrexham.

Plaid Cymru councillor Carrie Harper was among those who started the campaign for the museum in Wrexham two years ago. She said: 
"It's taken far too long to get to this stage but at least now we're going to see some progress. My concern with the tender is that the Welsh Government has not specified that we need it here in the north east - the only part of Wales that does not have a national museum.

"Wrexham is where the FA of Wales was established, the home of early internationals and the third oldest club in the world. It's the spiritual home of Welsh football and a national museum would provide a huge boost to the area."
Councillor Marc Jones, whose Grosvenor ward includes the Racecourse ground, added: 
"Wrexham Council already has an extensive collection of Welsh football memorabilia that's been on show recently at the town's museum and I'd like to see that collection on permanent display for fans to be able to see. 
"England has a national football museum in Manchester, Scotland has one in Glasgow and it makes perfect sense to locate our national museum in Wrexham. As well as recognising the historic importance of the area in developing football in Wales, it would also re-balance the economic benefits towards the North."
Funding for the football museum in Manchester was provided through the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as the local council and it attracted a million visitors in its first three years.

Cllr Jones added: 
"When you visit the museum in Manchester you can't help being struck by the amount of coverage footballing pioneers such as Billy Meredith, originally from Chirk, are given. 
"Not only did he play for Wales, Manchester United and Manchester City, he was also instrumental in forming the first Players' Union and only retired from playing at the grand old age of 47. 
Something of the Ian Rush about our Billy?
"We need a national museum to showcase the achievements of people like Billy Meredith as well as those of Gareth Bale as they continue to make history."