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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Isherwood hits out at Health Minister over NHS

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has hit out at the Health Minister for failing to address the array of problems currently facing NHS Wales services in North Wales communities.
 
Speaking in the Assembly Chamber this week, Mr Isherwood asked the Minister, Mark Drakeford AM, what the Welsh Government is doing to improve  primary care provision in North Wales and to respond to concerns raised by constituents.

However, Mr Isherwood claims the Minister failed to answer his questions and instead laid the blame for the problems on the Health Board.
 
Mr Isherwood said: “The North Wales Community Health Council has made it clear that you’re responsible for setting the policy and financial frameworks within which the Health Board and they have to operate.
 
“Last week, I told the Deputy Minister that Holywell Community Hospital staff had told me that they w an ted to take pressure off Glan Clwyd but were not being given the staff to do it, and that extra investment in community hospitals like Mold and Holywell and NHS community beds in Flint would take pressure off the general hospitals and enable the health board to use its resources more efficiently.
 
“How, therefore, do you respond to the replies I've received from constituents in Flint to your reply, and the Health Board reply, with evidence supporting their 99.3% referendum in favour of a return of NHS community beds to Flint, that, since the hospital closed, step-down care from Glan Clwyd to Holywell for Flint patients has not worked, waiting times in excess of three months have been experienced by many, there are simply not sufficient beds in the system and, currently, waiting times for a GP visit are three to four weeks?”
 
The Minister replied: “The Member was right when he started by saying that the responsibilities of Ministers are to set policies and provide finance. He might have gone on to note that we are not responsible for operational matters, and his questions would be better directed to those who are responsible—that is to say, the chief executive of the local health board.”
  
Mr Isherwood added: “What is the purpose of having a Health Minister if he refuses to address problems in our health service?
 
“Never was there a clearer case of a Minister and a Government washing their hands of responsibility, locking our health boards in handcuffs and leaving them to take the hit for the consequences of Welsh Government policy.”

Friday, January 30, 2015

AM presses for action over A5 "danger" spot

Assembly Member Ken Skates has vowed to continue to push for parking restrictions at a "troublesome" spot on the A5 in Llangollen.

Clwyd South AM Mr Skates has been working with councillor Stuart Davies to get the Welsh Government to introduce double yellow lines to stop what he says is dangerous parking opposite Stans of Llangollen on Berwyn Street.

Mr Skates, who is based in Llangollen, said parked cars were causing a major obstruction for pedestrians – particularly elderly residents – trying to cross the road safely to access the shop and post office inside.

He added: “The Welsh Labour Government’s Transport Minister Edwina Hart appreciates our concerns over this issue, and has instructed officials to ensure funding is considered for the necessary work in the next financial year.

“I’m hopeful it will be signed off and carried out as soon as possible, and will continue to press for a speedy resolution to what is becoming an increasing problem for many of my constituents.”

Cllr Davies said he was "pleased to see the traffic scheme promised by the Trunk Highways Authority finally coming to fruition".

Canal & River Trust recruiting

The Canal & River Trust in Wales is looking for a temporary part-time staff member for the Trevor Basin Visitor Centre.

The job on offer is seven hours a day, three days a week on a rota to include weekends and carries a pro rata salary of £12,470.

According to the job advert, the requirement is to deliver customer driven service and product improvements within a safe environment, supporting the Canal & River Trust’s aims to improve safety whilst protecting the heritage and integrity of the inland waterway network.

* For more details, go to: https://careers-canalrivertrust.icims.com/jobs/1633/destination-assistant/job

Cottage Hospital closure raised on national TV

The closure of Llangollen Cottage Hospital was raised on national television last night (Thursday).

An edition of the BB1 current affairs panel show Question Time from Wrexham began with the issue of the performance of the NHS in Wales compared to its counterpart in England.

* Question Time chairman David Dimbleby.
First questioner from the floor selected by chairman David Dimbleby came from Llangollen county councillor Stuart Davies.

He said: "The Betsi Cadwaladr health board has been closing cottage hospitals, one in Llangollen with about 15 beds.

"We've seen on national news - not Welsh news - national news queues of ambulances outside the Maelor hospital here.

"And why are they there? Because of bed blocking, and if the people in those beds could have gone to the cottage hospitals we wouldn't see the queues."

David Dimbleby responded: "Are you saying the Prime Minister is right to say to Wales, you cannot run a health service?"

Cllr Davies replied: "He's correct."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Appeal follows Llantysilio burglary

Neighbourhood Watch has put out a message to its members in the area appealing for information following a burglary in the Llantysilio area of Llangollen.

Sometime between 09.30am and 12.30pm on Tuesday, January 27 unknown offenders forced entry to the property and stole several items from inside.

Neighbourhood watch says: "If you noticed anything suspicious, or have any information relating to this incident please contact North Wales Police by dialling 101 quoting reference RC15012591.

"Alternatively, you can provide information anonymously by calling Crimestoppers Wales on 0800 555 111.

"North Wales Police would like to urge residents to always report suspicious activity to them at the earliest opportunity."

The add: "Please consider registering your valuable items on Immobilise.  This is a free service and helps keep a record of all important details including serial numbers, model numbers etc. 

"It helps to identify owners when lost or stolen property is found."

* To register go to: http://www.immobilise.com/

Superstar tenor Alfie Boe heads for Llangollen

 
* Alfie Boe will headline at this year's eisteddfod.
 
Superstar tenor Alife Boe is heading back to North Wales.
 
The classical heart-throb, has sold one and a half million records, been at number one in the classical charts many times and performed on Broadway, will be taking centre stage at this year's Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
 
Boe, dubbed Britain's Favourite Tenor, will be performing songs from musical theatre and movies at the glitzy evening concert on Thursday, July 9.
 
Joining him will be Welsh singer Sophie Evans, who went onto star as Dorothy in the West End production of The Wizard of Oz having finished runner-up in the TV talent show Over the Rainbow, classical saxophonist Amy Dickson along with Jonathan Antoine, the classically trained tenor who rose to fame on Britain's Got Talent.

The concert is being sponsored by the award-winning care organisation Pendine Park that's celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said: "We're absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to sponsor what promises to be a magical night of musical entertainment in such an important year for Pendine Park."

The festival's musical director, Eilir Owen Griffiths, said: “I’m thrilled Alfie Boe has agreed to headline what will be an absolutely fantastic evening concert. Alfie’s unforgettable West End performances as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables were critically acclaimed and rightly so.

“This isn’t his first appearance at Llangollen of course and audiences have always responded to him, he is definitely a firm favourite. But this will be the first time we have had a concert which will specifically celebrate musical theatre and movie themes. It will be a wonderful night and one not to be missed.”

For his part, Boe was delighted to have the opportunity to return to the Llangolllen stage, following in the footsteps of his hero, the legendary Luciano Pavarotti.

He said: “It’s a lovely festival, that’s why I keep going back. This will be my third visit I think.

“There is always a great audience and I know they will be up for a good night. I have always had a great reception at Llangollen.

“The programme will include some of the top songs from a great many of the very best musical theatre shows and film scores. And of course there will be a few surprises too.”

Boe’s concert will be one of the highlights of another packed week which will begin on Tuesday with Children’s Day and the Parade of Nations, led by Eisteddfod President Terry Waite before the evening Heart of Llangollen concert featuring a galaxy of international talent.

Highlights of Wednesday will include the debut of the International Young Musician of the Year and the Children’s Choir of the World while Thursday’s competitions will see another first, the International Voice of Musical Theatre Trophy.

Friday’s Open Category for choirs will showcase styles like gospel, barbershop, jazz, pop and glee styles and will also see the International Voice of the Future decided with the prize including the chance to sing at one of the evening concerts the future.

The Blue Riband event, the Choir of the World for the Pavarotti Trophy, is decided on Saturday night as well as the Lucile Armstrong Dance Final and Sunday sees the Eisteddfod let its hair down for Llanfest before the climactic final concert.

Meanwhile, Boe has a hectic few months ahead before he arrives at Llangollen including the world premiere of a "symphonised" version of The Who’s rock classic Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall.

He was born in the Lancashire fishing port of Fleetwood to an Irish mother and a Norwegian father and was the youngest of nine children.

His big break came when he was spotted by a businessman singing operatic arias as he cleaned cars in his job as a trainee mechanic.

The businessman, who had links in the music industry, suggested Boe audition for a London opera company which he did and that proved a turning point as he was quickly accepted.

So he upped sticks, moved to London and studied singing at the Royal College of Music, the national Opera Studio and joined the Royal Opera House’s Vilar Young Artists Programme.

He went on to conquer the world’s most prestigious opera stages, lead the cast of Les Miserables for nearly a year, and steal the show at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Last year he appeared on our small screens, starring in ITV’s biggest programme of the winter, Mr Selfridge, as music-hall singer Richard Chapman, and last year saw the release of his best-selling autobiography, My Story.

Now 41, Boe is married to Sarah, whom he met in San Francisco while rehearsing for La Boheme, and they have two children.

He added: “I certainly had a lucky break when the guy suggested I audition for an opera company. I’ve been so lucky but it has also been hard work.

“There have been so many highlights from the West End to New York but I suppose one of the best moments was singing on the balcony at Buckingham Palace as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert.

“It’s not every day you get to sing at Buckingham Palace. It was just a wonderful occasion. I sang ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story alongside American soprano Renee Fleming. Now that would be a song I’d love to sing at Llangollen.”

The feelgood atmosphere of the Eisteddfod field through the week as hundreds of competitors and thousands of visitors mingle with spontaneous performances breaking out.
 
Visitors can enjoy live music at the 200-seat S4C Stage, join in with dance workshops or just soak up the heady atmosphere throughout the week world-class competitors perform in a spectacular celebration of cultures with stunning choral music and lively traditional dance, especially on Folk Friday when the outdoor stages will feature world-class music and dance.
 
To book tickets and for more details on the 2014 festival go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk

Double the laughs for Llangollen Comedy Club

The comedy circuit's finest stand-ups will pay a visit to the Llangollen Pavilion tomorrow (Friday) evening.

After attracting sell-out audiences for their Llangollen Comedy Club nights last year, organisers Radiant Events have doubled the number of shows in 2015.
Headlining January's show is Liverpool comedian Steve Gribbin (below left).
Having previously performed at both the Glastonbury and Edinburgh Festivals, Steve is also a member of 'Cutting Edge', the acclaimed weekly topical show at the Comedy Store in London.
Joining Steve is Caimh McDonnell (below right), who describes himself as "the white-haired irishman whose name nobody can pronounce". As well as performing at comedy clubs across the UK, Caimh has recently been seen supporting Sarah Millican on her 'Home Bird' tour.
Introducing the acts will be regular compère, Silky. Described by John Bishop as "a very, very funny fella", his unique blend of hosting and musical comedy keeps audiences coming back for more at gigs up and down the country.
The shows are run by Llangollen based Radiant Events. Event manager Paul Brown says: "We had such a fantastic response to the comedy nights last year that we've decided to double the number of shows in 2015.
"We've got a regular slot on the last Friday of the month at the Pavilion, so a great night of comedy is always only a few weeks away.
"We've tried to keep tickets affordable at just £9 each - that's a lot less than you'd pay for the same line up in Liverpool or Manchester. Hopefully people will keep supporting live stand-up right on their doorstep".
The first Llangollen Comedy Club of 2015 takes place at the Llangollen Pavilion on Friday 30th January. Doors open at 7.30pm and the shows starts at 8pm. Tickets priced £9 are available to buy online at www.llancomedy.co.uk or in person at Gales of Llangollen and the Llangollen Pavilion.
* Compere Silky.
 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Campaigner hits out over ambulance figures

A Llangollen health services campaigner has commented on new figures which show that ambulance response times for the most urgent calls in Wales are the worst on record.

The proportion of ambulances hitting the target response time of eight minutes for the most urgent calls fell well below half in December.

The target for responding to Category A calls is 65% - but in December it was just 42.6%.

It was down from 51.0% in November 2014 and from 57.6% from December 2013.

Martin Crumpton, who campaigned the save Llangollen Cottage Hospital from the axe, said:
"Today’s release of the appalling figures for Welsh Ambulance targets, the worst on record, comes as no surprise – it was entirely predictable, as certain as cold weather and influenza in Winter.
 
"The real surprise is the use of politician-speak in the media today which overtly blames the bed shortage but without actually using those words.
 
"The BBC is also reluctant to translate them into plain English (or plain Welsh). The current politically-correct phrase is ‘handovers at A&E are exceeding their 15-minute target times, tying-up ambulances and their crews.
 
"This collective sin of omission translates directly into the bed crisis caused directly by losing over three-hundred beds since the infamous North Wales Health Is Changing scam, and what a scam it was.
 
"I’ve asked for a statement from BCUHB about announcing the reopening of cottage hospitals – the only viable solution, regardless of the waffle, excuses and downright dishonesty.
 
"I get responses two months late and not from all the bBoard members, only a well-prepared, hands-off, minimalist dance around the facts as an act of collective responsibility – a political deice used to suppress individual honesty, conscience and integrity.
 
"They have lost sight of who they serve – not the Minster, not me, not us – the frontline clinicians, technicians and nurses over whom they wield their strangling bureaucracy.
 
"My eyes go to Cardiff and the elusive and evasive Health Minister, of a cabal so committed to social engineering it thinks too great a demand can be met by persuading patients to reduce their needs. It is Cardiff which shields Betsi Cadwaladr from accountability."

County aims to keep children safer online

Denbighshire County Council is encouraging schools to join in with this international event to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people  www.saferinternetday.org

Safer Internet Day (SID) has been running for the past 11 years and there is a wealth of information and practical advice available for young people to be able to learn how to stay safe when using the internet and social media. There are also a wide variety of teaching resources available for schools to use to help children and young people think and act sensibly and safely online.

Denbighshire's cabinet Lead member for Education, Councillor Eryl Williams, explained: "Over the last decade, the internet and social media have become an integral part of our lives and we are using this technology for everything from work to socialising with friends.

"We all know the internet can be a fantastic tool for us but there are also risks involved and we need to make sure our children and young people know how to keep themselves safe online.

"I would encourage all of our schools to take a look at the resources available and use them to work with our young people to give them the best and safest foundations as they venture online."

How to get involved

There are a number of resources available (in Welsh & English) for schools on the website including
·        Posters
·        Lesson plans
·        Quick activities
·        Assembly scripts
·        Parent packs

http://www.saferinternet.org.uk/safer-internet-day/2015/education-packs

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Stuart Davies slams Llan parking study

Llangollen county councillor Stuart Davies has slammed a study drawn up by consultants employed by Denbighshire to report on car parking in the town.

And he called for a full parking needs study to be done after taking on board representations from residents and businesses in town.
He says several issues had been highlighted by himself and others ahead of the study.

These included the lack of car parking spaces and of proper enforcement of the existing rules and also “inconsistencies” in the orders governing street car parking.
He said that despite highlighted these points and discussing them with lead officers he was surprised to see that none of them had been addressed by the consultants.

The consultants said that based on data collection, analysis and review, they would recommend a number of traffic management and parking measures to complement the retail offer in Llangollen:


1. Change all on-street parking to one hour limited waiting and improve enforcement

2. Consider introducing Pay & Display control for all on-street parking

3. Redesignate Market Street car park as short-stay

4. Make the Pavilion car park half price or free

5. Consider introducing car park VMS signing on main approaches

Cllr Davies said:
Point 1 – He agrees with, especially the enforcement, this is the subject most complained about to him.
Point 2 - He disagrees with entirely, describing it as “a recipe to kill the High Street where people use the existing parking to pop in to the shops”.
Point 3 - He points out that Market Street is already a short term car park, adding: “What is needed to be done here is regularise the use of the short term by permit holders and complete the scheme to add 15 more places put in place by myself and my fellow councillor.”
Point 4 – He points out The Pavilion car park brings in “much needed revenues, over £10k a year, and could bring in more from tourists if enforced properly.”
Point 5 - He agrees with a proper sign and direction strategy, which he says will help to alleviate the issues.
He added: “The consultants talk about nearly full to capacity but at busy weekends we all know that it is impossible to park or move around as we see people driving around in circles looking for a space to park.

“The consultants also failed to comment on the future health facility where we will be gaining 75 more spaces and the new supermarket where there will be an extra 200 spaces.
“I have spoken to the Town Mayor and my fellow county councillor and none of us were consulted by these people.”

Denbighshire/Conwy merger plan rejected by Minister

Voluntary merger plans by six Welsh councils have been rejected by the public services minister.

The Williams Commission had called for the 22 councils to be cut by half.

Conwy and Denbighshire along with Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen and Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan had suggested pairing up in response to an appeal for voluntary mergers by Leighton Andrews.

However the minister said he was "not persuaded" that the councils had set out a "compelling vision" for merger.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Andrews said: "I am disappointed to report that on the basis of this assessment I am not persuaded that any one of these Expressions of Interest sufficiently meets the criteria for moving ahead to prepare a full Voluntary Merger Proposal."

The Leaders of Conwy and Denbighshire Councils have expressed  their disappointment  following the announcement.

In November, councillors in both Conwy and Denbighshire voted in favour of submitting an expression of interest to the Welsh Government regarding the possibility of a voluntary merger,  providing doing so voluntarily would offer substantial financial advantages.

A number of meetings have taken place between both councils over recent months to explore the idea further, political representatives in both counties have set up groups to oversee the merger developments, a number of discussions have taken place with Welsh Government officials and a high level meeting has taken place with Leighton Andrews.

Llangollen county councillor Stuart Davies said: "I am astounded to learn that the Minister, Leighton Andrews, has decided to not accept the offer of voluntary merger from DCC and Conwy.

"This Welsh Government is all over the place, it commissions a report at heavens knows what costs, then when some authorities go along with it, they turn them down!"

"Personally, I never wanted this to happen but after having gone through a budget process, where we are being forced to close old people's homes by the budget cuts from the WG, I find it difficult to comprehend the sheer waste of money.

"The Williams report cost an arm and a leg, local authorities have spent a small fortune on preliminary work and then this Labour Minister comes along and throws it all in the dustbin."

"When we see the sheer waste of money by this Labour-led Welsh Govt I wonder why people vote for them!"

Leader of Denbighshire, Councillor Hugh Evans OBE, said: "We are astounded by today's announcement and feel that he has missed a real opportunity.

"Conwy and Denbighshire were the first councils in Wales to publicly declare an interest in the potential of a merger  and we were the only councils to submit an expression of interest based on the boundaries suggested by the Williams Commission and based on the Minister's own White Paper on local government reorganisation.

"We were committed to developing a full business case for a voluntary merger and this would have looked at issues such as a full consultation and work to align services, in readiness for a new authority.  We feel that there was a very strong case for a merger and it was definitely the right approach. We also saw the merger as a way of sustaining and improving services for the future.
"We had also received feedback from the Minister's advisors that the Expressions of Interest for a voluntary merger between Conwy and Denbighshire would be endorsed and that any issues identified would be resolved when the full business case was compiled.  

"The Minister clearly has a different map in mind and it would have been fairer to us for this to have been made clear.

"Today's announcement is a shock and clearly we will now need to consider our position."

Leader of Conwy, Councillor Dilwyn Roberts said: “I’ll be very interested to learn in more detail the Minister’s reasons for not supporting the Expression of Interest. I look forward to meeting with the Minister to discuss his vision and latest plans for the future of local government in Wales.” 
 

Church members tuck into haggis lunch


Members of Llangollen's churches enjoyed a hearty haggis lunch on Sunday at St Collen's Church Community Hall under the able auspices of Bob Brown, who acted as the Master of Ceremonies.

The meal was in celebration of the birthday of Robert Burns, the Scottish bard, on January 25.

Bob gave an introduction to the ingredients for a traditional Burns' night celebration and later gave a fascinating introduction to the poet's life and work.

The lunch concluded with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

Monday, January 26, 2015

MP hits out over PIP assessments

Today (Monday) in the House of Commons Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones questioned the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about the length of time people are having to wait for Personal Independence Payments to be assessed.

She said: "Last year, Iain Duncan Smith made a very clear promise that by the start of 2015 no-one would have to wait more than 16 weeks for an assessment.

"Today I asked a simple yes or no question as to whether this was now the case. The Government Minister couldn't answer it and just waffled about figures that were due out later in the week.

"The issue of Personal Independence Payment assessment times is a massive one for people with cancer and other serious conditions, in our area and more widely across the UK. It is  a great disappointment that David Cameron's Government has really let these people down."

County extends garden waste discount deadline

Denbighshire County Council is to extend the period for which an early-bird discount is available to residents by a further two weeks.

The reduced rates of £22 for the standard garden waste service and £34 for a higher capacity service will now be available to everyone signing-up before 14th February.

The offer was originally scheduled to end on 31st January.  So far, the Council had taken orders for 6,407 garden waste bins from 5,858 Denbighshire households.

Alan Roberts, Denbighshire’s Technical Waste Officer, explained that the level of orders placed exceeded expectations:  “This is the level of orders the Council expected to receive by the end of January and the Council would really like to thank everyone who has helped us plan the services by opting-in early.

"In fact the take-up has been so great, the Council has decided to extend the early-bird period in order to avoid a last minute rush of transactions.

 “Nearly 70% of orders have been placed by residents using the Council’s website. We would encourage this as it is not only convenient for the customer but it is the most cost-effective way for the Council to accept payments and helps us keep the cost of the garden waste service to a minimum.”

The Council is currently placing stickers on the wheeled bins of residents to remind them of the need to pay if they wish to receive garden waste collections in future.

These stickers show the extended early-bird discount deadline of 14th February. After this date, the prices for the garden waste service will revert to the standard price of £24 or £36 for the higher capacity service.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Air Ambulance quiz night planned

A quiz night in aid of Wales Air Ambulance will be held at the Britannia Inn, Llangollen on Thursday, March 19.

With a 7pm for 7.30pm start, cost is £2 per person with a maximum of five players per team allowed. Quizmaster will be Martin Goggan.

Meals are available from 5pm.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

AM asks Crimewatch about Trevaline case

An Assembly Member is hoping a TV appeal could finally solve the 25-year mystery of missing Llangollen woman Trevaline Evans. 
 
Ken Skates, the Labour AM for Clwyd South, has written to BBC’s Crimewatch programme to ask whether producers have any plans to revisit the case and attempt to finally establish what happened to Mrs Evans, who vanished in mysterious circumstances on June 16, 1990. 
 
After leaving a note in her antiques shop saying she would be back in two minutes, she was never seen again and her body has never been found. She was 52. 
 
Mr Skates, whose constituency office is in Llangollen, said: “Mrs Evans’ husband Richard passed away last month, aged 83, without ever knowing what had happened to her.  
 
“North Wales Police have said the case remains open but the investigation is currently inactive as they have exhausted every avenue. I have written to Chief Constable Mark Polin to see if that is likely to change, and am awaiting a response. 
 
In all likelihood, the police’s resources are already too over-stretched to consider reopening such an old case without new evidence emerging. And while it may well prove fruitless, there is a chance – however small – that a fresh appeal on national television could yield key information. 
 
“Millions of people watch every edition of Crimewatch and, despite the great length of time that has elapsed since Mrs Evans’ disappearance, you just never know.” 
 
Mr Skates added: “I’m sure Mrs Evans’ surviving family will never lose hope that they might find out what happened to her, and I would urge anyone who has information which could help to contact police. 
 
A quarter of a century is an incredibly long time, and this is a most unusual case, but of course it’s possible that someone still alive today knows what happened.” 
 
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chirk bypass now open following new incident

Shropshire Star (@ShropshireStar)
Woman airlifted to hospital as #A483 closes following police incident on #Shropshire border shropshirestar.com/news/2015/01/2… pic.twitter.com/efDUIMLHB1



Tweeted just after 5.30pm:

North & Mid Wales @TrafficWalesN                
: Now clear : Both directions : Chirk



Another major incident appears incident appears to have taken place on the A5 near Chirk.

The Daily Post tweeted around 4.20pm: "A5 Chirk Bypass closed in both directions closed, due to police incident and air ambulance in the road between A483 and B5070 Chirk Road."

llanblogger reader Mike Edwards, calling from his car, at around 4.30pm said that traffic was once again being diverted through Chirk.

County's dog fouling campaign continues

A campaign to tackle dog fouling in Denbighshire will continue into 2015 with a programme of on-going enforcement activities and promotional activity around the county.

In 2014, a total of 149 people were issued with fixed penalty notices for allowing their dogs to foul in public.

Councillor David Smith, Cabinet Lead Member for Environment, said: "The council has been targeting a number of 'hotspots' in the county which have been identified by members of the public through the reporting of problems with dog fouling.

"We would like to thank the public for this information, as information on offenders and problem areas are a major help to us in our efforts to tackle this anti-social problem.

"We have been running a campaign for the last few years and the number of reports coming in from the public are increasing year on year. We believe this is as a result of a co-ordinated campaign through the media, websites, social media and the local press to tell the public how to report dog fouling.

"However, we still need the public to provide the information that could lead to us identifying the culprits and taking enforcement action. Generally, a fixed penalty notice will be issued and court action may be considered if an individual refuses to pay."

To report dog fouling, please visit the Council's website: www.denbighshire.gov.uk/dogfouling or by contacting the Customer Contact Centre, on 01824 706100 (Welsh language line) or 01824 706101 (English language line).

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Right to Buy homes scheme could be axed

New measures to protect Wales’ social housing stock have been put forward by the Welsh Government today.
 
Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister, Lesley Griffiths, has published a White Paper setting out the Welsh Government’s intention to end Right to Buy and Right to Acquire.
 
The Right to Buy and Right to Acquire allows eligible social housing tenants to buy their council or housing association home at a discount of up to £16,000.

Over the past 30 years, the policy has resulted in a significant reduction in social housing stock. Between 1981 and 2014, 138,423 council homes were sold – this is a 45% reduction in the social housing available when the policy was first introduced.

The Minister has also set out plans today to halve the current maximum discount from £16,000 to £8,000.

Lesley Griffiths said: “Many families depend on social housing for a safe, secure and affordable place to live.

“Our supply of homes is under considerable pressure and we are still seeing social rented properties being taken out of our social housing stock because of the Right to Buy, which is forcing many vulnerable people to wait longer for a home. This is why decisive action is needed to protect our social housing to make sure it is available for those who need it most.”

The Housing (Wales) Measure 2011 allows local authorities to apply for permission to suspend the Right to Buy and Right to Acquire locally to help tackle housing pressures. Carmarthenshire Council was the first local authority to ask the Welsh Government to suspend of Right to Buy and, today, the Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister, Lesley Griffiths, approved Carmarthenshire’s application.

Cllr Dyfed Edwards, Welsh Local Government Association spokesperson for Housing, said: “With many thousands of people currently on housing waiting lists, and at a time of acute shortages of affordable homes, the proposal from Welsh Government to abolish the Right To Buy scheme is a welcome step in tackling a growing problem in Wales.

“Despite the considerable efforts that local councils and housing associations are making to increase the overall supply of social housing by building new homes, housing provision continues to struggle to meet the rising level of housing need in Wales. The loss of properties through the Right To Buy has worsened this situation and has, in some circumstances, acted as a considerable disincentive for further housing development. Ending the Right to Buy scheme will help ensure that local councils and their wider housing sector partners can begin to meet housing demand and offer people access to affordable housing more quickly and effectively in the future.”

The Minister added: “We are taking action to protect Wales’ social housing stock – as well as moving to end Right to Buy. During this term of Government, we are investing over £400 million in affordable homes through our Social Housing Grant programme. Since 2011, 6,890 additional affordable homes have been delivered across Wales, while we are just 529 short of our target of bringing 5,000 empty homes back into use this Assembly term.”

The White Paper consultation seeks the public’s views on the proposals. The consultation will close on 16 April 2015.

Peter Black AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Housing, has said the Welsh Labour Government’s announcement of an outright ban on ‘Right to Buy’ is “unnecessary and is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
 
He said: “We accept that ‘Right to Buy’ is making local authorities reluctant to build new homes.  However, they can already make the case to government to suspend ‘Right to Buy’ if they wish.
 
“The Minister’s plan for an outright ban on ‘Right to Buy’ is unnecessary and she is effectively taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
 
“If the Minister wants to give local authorities an additional incentive to build new homes, then she could do this by just restricting the right to buy on new builds – this could be implemented without affecting tenants existing rights while at the same time increasing the housing stock.
 
“Whilst it would be reasonable to stop the option of ‘Right to Buy’ to new tenants, it is completely unfair for people’s hopes and plans to buy their home to be dashed just because the Welsh Labour Government fancies grabbing a headline.  This is cheap politics that will cost many people dear.
 
“If the Welsh Labour Government was serious about sorting out Wales’ housing crisis, then it would finance the building of new homes – something it has categorically failed to do.”

Drink drive campaign sees 76 arrests

1512NWPOLICE139North Wales Police arrested 76 people during the recent all Wales Christmas Anti-Drink and Drug Driving Campaign.

Led by Dyfed Powys Police the month-long campaign 30,718 drivers throughout Wales were breath tested between 1st December 2014 and 1st January 2015.
 
The force carried out 15,627 breath tests with 76 being positive. Six people were also arrested for driving whilst under the influence of drugs.

Some of the highest readings recorded during the campaign in North Wales were 147, 106 and 105 compared to the legal limit of 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. All three Individuals have been charged and have appeared before the courts.

Chief Inspector Darren Wareing from North Wales Police’ Roads Policing Unit said: “We set ourselves a tough target this year in relation to drink and drug driving during the festive period.

"That target was ZERO. That is zero deaths on our roads as a result of drink or drug driving. I am pleased to report, that with the support of our communities, we achieved that.

“Our campaign this year was heavily focussed around preventing drink/drug driving although unfortunately we still found that some people were willing to risk their lives and the lives of others by drink/drug driving. Although we saw a downturn in the number of people we caught this year, which is encouraging, there are still too many willing to take the risk.

“We have had overwhelming support and I would like to thank those who positively engaged with the campaign."

He added: “Operation Sodium - our anti-drink/drug driving campaign continues throughout the year. The operation involves police officers using a number of tactics in specific areas to ensure we catch people who take the risk. Our message is simple yet strong – don’t do it, the people around you do not support what you are doing, the consequences can be devastating plus we will catch you.”

* If you have information relating to someone you think is driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, please contact North Wales Police on 101 or via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.

AM takes up rail link cut fears

Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates has reacted to concerns over the future of a peak-time rail link from this area to the Midlands.

The 07:47 train from Wrexham to Birmingham has been left out of a draft timetable for May published online, according to the Shrewsbury to Chester Rail Users Association (SCRUA).
If the service is axed commuters face waits of half an hour for a connection at Shrewsbury, the group said.

Arriva Trains Wales has said "nothing has been finalised" on their May timetable.
Ken Skates said: “I have made repeated representations over this issue as the axing of the service would cause major inconvenience to many of my constituents who use Chirk and Ruabon stations, as well as Wrexham.

“I have written to Arriva Trains Wales and have also relayed concerns to Welsh Government Transport Minister Edwina Hart, who recognises the importance of rail travel in North Wales and the border areas.
“I will continue to fight for the best service provision possible for my constituents.”

Young Llan director goes on tour


* Director Natalie Evans.

A budding theatre director from Llangollen will soon be going on tour with a new stage production, supported by the town's own Twenty Club Amateur Players.

Natalie Evans, 21, will direct Winona, a new work from Welsh playwright Christopher T.Harris, which follows siblings Kate and Daf as they retreat to the family cottage following the sudden deaths of their parents.

* A publicity image for the play (Dorit Fuhg).

When a stranger named Ed comes to visit, however, their somewhat quiet retreat turns into something quite different.

Along with Natalie, the production stars fellow Twenty Club members Andy Evans and Ally Goodman on stage, with technician Jack Shimmin behind the scenes.

* The cast of Winona.
Natalie is currently pursuing her career in theatre directing and has previously taken charge of two Twenty Club productions - The Glass Menagerie (2013) and Season's Greetings (2014).

She has also taken the helm in productions with both Aberystwyth and Chester Universities and her own graduate theatre company, Quintus.
Winona will be performed at venues in Liverpool, Aberystwyth and Cardiff in February with more dates to be confirmed for later in the year.
 
The Twenty Club, with its aim of supporting young local theatre talent on stage and behind the scenes, will assist with the production costs along with the Arts Council of Wales.
 
Tickets for the tour start at £5 and more information can be found on the websites below:

Lantern Theatre, Liverpool - 12th February - lanterntheatreliverpool.co.uk
Aberystwyth Arts Centre - 19th February - aberystwythartscentre.co.uk
The Gate, Cardiff - 20th February - thegate.org.uk