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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

MP hits out over asylum seekers' treatment

Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd to express concern about the Home Office’s handling of the cases of asylum seekers who have been tortured.

Ms Jones (pictured), who met recently with members of Llangollen Refugee Support Network, expressed particular reservations about how survivors of torture are sometimes turned away on "specious grounds".

The MP referred to a report authored by the organisation Freedom from Torture that documented how asylum caseworkers without any clinical qualifications often replace the expert opinion of a medical doctor with their own speculation about clinical matters.

She said: "The current set-up contravenes a clear Home Office policy on how to handle expert medical evidence of torture.

"Too many Home Office decisions with medical evidence of torture are poor and have to be corrected by judges. This is wrong in principle and it is also wrong in that it is a waste of taxpayers' money." 

Ms Jones also expressed her opposition to an Official State Visit to the UK by new US President Donald Trump until his "discriminatory travel ban" has come to an end. 

Indian theme for fundraiser


Monday, January 30, 2017

Another successful year for Tidy Town Team



* Members of the team at work outside the museum a couple of years ago.

Co-ordinator David Davies has given an account of Llangollen's Tidy Town Team's latest successful year in the organisation's 2016 annual report.

Our  eleventh year of operation.

With a couple of retirees replaced by new additions, the team continues to maintain a membership of 20 people.

Litter clearing continues on Dinas Bran Castle Hill, roadside and around the “Hawthorn” sculpture, along the Panorama and around the School and Wharf area, but litter is much reduced (except around the school) compared to a few years ago.

Highlights of the year have included our second year of the “Cemetery Woodlands” project. This has involved continuing to open up the area which subsequently revealed the appearance of a mass of spring flowers. This was especially appreciated from the opposite side of the river along “Victoria Promenade”.
  
We have also planted over 1,200 daffodil bulbs on the canal wharf bank and the roadside by the Medical Centre.

In Plas Newydd we have assisted the Head Gardener with the task of giving more light to the Cyflymen by clearing laurel growth from the steep riverside bank.  We all now know how sheep feel walking on hill sides.

The Town Christmas Festival saw us in action as usual erecting stalls and parade support duties, with the task of erecting the Christmas Tree somewhat easier this year with the new “high- tech” version around the flag pole. 

A big thank you to all our supporters during the year including: Llangollen Town Council,  Denbighshire CC,  Keep Wales Tidy,  Horse Drawn Boats,  K&C Construction and the estate of Tom Edwards.

Finally, thank you to the members of the team for another 600 hours of voluntary (same pay as when we started) work during the year.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

County's response over travellers agreed

Members of Denbighshire’s Cabinet have agreed a formal response to the Welsh Government on the assessment of accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers.

All local authorities have been required to undertake an up to date assessment by the end of February of the needs of gypsies and travellers and to address any identified need.

Denbighshire County Council’s own assessment recognises the need for a six-pitch permanent residential Gypsy and Traveller site in the county, as well as a transit site for 4-5 pitches to provide accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers travelling through the county.

Councillor Hugh Irving, Cabinet Lead Member for Communities, said: “We fully recognise the need and duty to review accommodation issues for gypsies and travellers.

“Historically we have seen unlawful encampments on Council and private land, predominantly in the north of the county and the position will continue if we don’t take a proactive approach to managing the accommodation  needs of gypsies and travellers.

“Resolving unlawful encampments will inevitably result in costs for the Council, and providing facilities for residential and transit accommodation would certainly help address this issue.

“We will now submit our formal response to Welsh Government and await the outcome."

Friday, January 27, 2017

School transport policy due for discussion

A revised version of the Home to School Transport Policy for pupils across Denbighshire looks set to be discussed next month.

The current policy came into force from September 2015, after agreement by council in 2014, with a review of the policy planned after 12 months of operation.

Councillor Eryl Williams, Cabinet Lead Member for Education, said: “The council recognises that there were pockets of concern regarding certain elements of the current policy and we have addressed these concerns as and when they have arisen. 

"The council agreed when it implemented the policy that it would be reviewed after one year of operating.  That review has now taken place and has taken into consideration feedback from schools, parents, councillors and advice through legal discussions.

“The current policy states that home to school transport will be provided to the nearest suitable school.  Some concern has been raised in some communities about this issue, and it is now being proposed that school transport to secondary schools will be based on nearest suitable school or whether the pupil attended a designated primary feeder school. Transport on the basis of feeder will be provided under discretionary arrangements.

“Clarity is also proposed relating to pick up points and hazardous routes, with a previously separate guidance note being incorporated into the latest policy.

“As with the current policy, the council would continue to provide free transport to the nearest suitable Welsh language or Faith school, if this was the parental / carers preference."

Proposed amendments to the policy will be discussed by members of Denbighshire’s Communities Scrutiny Committee on February 2, with the intention of having the required consultation period after its finalisation. 

Special events to support businesses planned


* Anna Taylor of Chilly Cow.

A month-long series of events to support businesses will be held this March.

Denbighshire County Council’s annual March for Business, a series of networking, advice and workshop sessions, returns this year with its biggest ever schedule.

Firms will be able to take advantage of a host of free events covering a wide-range of topics including retail skills, starting a new business, digital skills and how to create a healthier and happier working environment.

Cllr Hugh Evans OBE, Leader of Denbighshire, said: “We designed this programme of seminars and workshops to meet the needs of businesses in the county.

“March for Business offers firms the chance to network and get expert advice around issues that benefit them.

“The focus was devised following feedback from our annual Business Survey and shows the Council is listening to businesses and offering them support to suit their needs.”

March for Business is part of the Council’s work on developing the local economy through its Economic and Community Ambition Strategy, which includes a number of high priority projects to help businesses succeed.

Events will include a series of Ask the Expert networking breakfasts and lunches followed by one-to-ones around a range of topics including recruitment, finance and marketing.


One of the flagship events is the Denbighshire for Growth Advanced Materials & Manufacturing conference with speakers from academia, industry and government presenting key insights on opportunities in Denbighshire.

A Business Boost Camp to provide ideas and inspiration for developing a healthier and happier working environment and helping business flourish will be held along with a Digital Day featuring a mixture of a digital masterclass workshops and a cybercrime session.

Anna Taylor, aged 36, of Chilly Cow, a Ruthin-based producer of award-winning artisan ice cream, said: “Attending March for Business last year was really beneficial for our business. As well as having the chance to take advantage of some great training, advice and networking sessions, we met new clients.

“We met with lots of different businesses, including a new business which resulted in long-term orders. I would encourage all Denbighshire businesses to sign up for events at this year’s March for Business.”

A Business Wales workshop is being held for those looking to start a new business while a session to help businesses use Welsh to increase their appeal to the market of Welsh speakers, learners and tourists will also be held.

For more information or to book an event visit here

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Llan food entrepreneur opens new seaside cafe


* Phil Brown and co-director Neil Gitton at the Sea Shanty Café in Trearddur Bay.

A pioneering Llangollen food entrepreneur who created 50 new jobs by ploughing more than £1.5m into a seaside café has launched a recruitment drive for extra staff.

Phil Brown, a former schoolmate of Prince Charles, built up the Philpotts bespoke sandwich empire after opening his first shop in Chester, which now has 22 outlets across the UK.

Working with business partner Neil Gitton, he has now launched the Sea Shanty Café in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey. 

The restaurant (pictured right) celebrates beaches, holidays and the village’s links with sailing and local history.

The nautically-themed bistro, just a stone’s throw from the beach,  stands on the spot - and bears the name - of an old wooden café that was once a much loved haunt of holidaymakers for decades.

The new café’s ceiling is hung with historic sailing boats, while the walls are decorated with sand and shells collected from beaches around the world plus other sailing memorabilia and curiosities.

So successful has the Sea Shanty become it now employs more than 50 full and part-time staff.

“We have been open less than six months,” said Phil, who grew up in Neston, and began his working career as a journalist on the Birkenhead News.

"Demand is growing so fast we need to be recruiting more staff at all levels, if we are going to be able to cope with Easter and the summer season.

 “Being open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner seven days a week is taxing our nine superb chefs so we know that when spring arrives we will need more, if we are to maintain the level of service we now offer.

“These are extra roles to the seasonal staff we will be taking on for the summer.

“We are delighted to have found favour with local people in particular,” added Phil.

“There’s been a real trend for groups and families to come along, because the set up of our seating area means we can easily cater for up to 145 diners and my personal pleasure is the number of characterful dogs we welcome.

“The ambience of the café is tangible. Children and adults alike are fascinated by the boats in the ceiling and vintage outboard motors etc and the beach-combing bags for children are a real ‘people pleaser’. Even the toilets have charm with the sound of breaking waves on the shore in the Ladies and the shipping forecast in the Gents.”

Phil’s co-director is former chef Neil Gitton, who previously worked with Phil at Philpotts after gaining restaurant experience with pub chain Brunning and Price.

Neil said: “This part of Anglesey seems to be getting increasingly popular with day trippers from Ireland and other visitors, who stop off after a ferry crossing - we regularly get Scottish and Irish notes in the day’s takings.

“This is the Riviera of Wales, it is a beautiful spot and has so much to offer. Talking to other local businesses, they are also seeing an increase in trade, which is good news and shows that Trearddur Bay is seen as a destination in its own right, not simply a place that tourists pass through,” he added.

The Sea Shanty Café on Lon St Ffraid is open daily from 9am until late, and also has an popular Edwardian-style ice-cream parlour.

The establishment has  won rave write-ups from foodies, families and tourists on online sites such as TripAdvisor and OnionRing.

More details about opening times and menus at  seashantycafe.co.uk or call 01407 728200.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Council tax rise of 2.75% recommended

Members of Denbighshire’s Cabinet have agreed to recommend to full council that the proposed increase in the Denbighshire element of the council tax should be 2.75% - which is expected to be below the average across North Wales.

The proposed increase is also likely to be below the average level of increase generally across Wales.

Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill, Cabinet Lead Member for Finance, said: “The council is legally required to set a balanced and deliverable budget before the start of the financial year and to set the resulting level of council tax, to allow bills to be sent out to residents.

“Whilst considering and preparing to set this year’s budget, we have needed to take a number of factors into consideration.

“The final settlement from Welsh Government will see Denbighshire’s budget increase by 0.6%, slightly better than the provisional settlement.  On the face of it, the increase can be seen as good news, but  in real terms, it is a cut as it does not take into account inflation or pressures on some services.

“We have historically protected school budgets and an additional £1. 9 million is being made available for schools.  We also need to meet pressures facing social care, as well new investments in our priorities and they are all reflected in the proposed budget.

“Over recent years, the council has made a commitment to keeping council tax levels as low as possible.  At the start of this council term, Denbighshire had the third highest level of council tax in Wales. 

"Four consecutive years of below average increase has changed the position to now being the seventh or eighth highest in Wales for 2017/18.  This has resulted from the council being effective in the way that it has managed and delivered its budgets over recent years. As a result, no further savings are required from services for 2017/18, other than ones already committed."

The final budget will be agreed by full council on January 31st.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Special protected status for castle grasslands


Grasslands around Dinas Bran castle in Llangollen have been given special protected status, according to a story on the BBC website today (Tuesday).

For the full story, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-38731332

Sir Bryn Terfel and Gregory Porter headline anniversary eisteddfod

Opera legend Sir Bryn Terfel and American jazz singer Gregory Porter head the list of stars at this year's 70th anniversary Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

Also set to appear are vocal harmony group The Overtones and the Only Boys Aloud Academi.

* Sir Bryn Terfel.
Tickets for the festival, which will run from Monday 3rd July until Sunday 9th July 2017, will be available to season ticket holders and Friends of the Eisteddfod from 9am today (Tuesday).

Tickets go on sale to the general public at 9am on Thursday 9th February online at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk or via the box office on 01978 862001.

Anyone purchasing a membership to the Friends of the Eisteddfod during this two-week priority booking period will also gain access to advance tickets.

The 2017 event will be launched on Monday 3rd July with a rousing 70th anniversary opening concert that will include some of Wales’ best known hymns, powerful operatic choruses and inspiring classical favourites. Under the leadership of Owain Arwel Hughes CBE, Voice of the Future 2015 winner, Meinir Wyn Roberts and euphonium soloist, David Childs will join forces with the world class Cory Brass Band and Canoldir, Colne Valley, Froncysyllte and Rhosllanerchrugog Male Voice Choirs, setting the tone for the week ahead. 


* Gregory Porter.
On Tuesday 4th July, Sir Bryn Terfel will return to the International Eisteddfod to perform in a  concert version of Puccini’s dramatic story of love, lust, murder and political intrigue, Tosca.

The one-off performance will be accompanied by the Welsh National Opera Orchestra, with further international artists to be announced shortly.  

Wednesday 5th July will see Grammy-award winning video game music composer, Christopher Tin join the Welsh National Opera Orchestra and soprano, Elin Manahan Thomas for an international choral and orchestral spectacular in two parts, with a surprising twist.

The first half of the evening will feature a broad spectrum of classical music depicting themes of renewal and togetherness.

In the second half will be a special performance of Christopher’s song-cycle Calling All Dawns – including the iconic Baba Yetu - the theme tune to the globally renowned video game, Civilisation IV.

The performance will also see the return of the locally recruited Llangollen Celebration Chorus who will join the formidable line-up.

Only Boys Aloud Academi will be special guests at the International Celebration on Thursday 6th July, performing and joining competitors as part of an international mass choir conducted by Tim Rhys Evans.

The performance will be a rousing finale to the event, which will feature this year’s Peace Message, an annual highlight of the festival, delivered by Only Boys Aloud: Côr y Gogledd after the International Procession of Nations.

The concert will also showcase the talents of the finalists in the Voice of the Future competition, which is supported by Pendine Park and the Bryn Terfel Foundation.

Gregory Porter, will take to the stage at the festival on Friday 7th July for An Evening with Gregory Porter during which he will perform tracks from his latest album, Take me to the Alley, as well as older works. 

The International Eisteddfod’s competitions will reach their climax on Saturday 8th July with a performance from special guests, The Overtones.

The winners of the adult choir categories will compete for the title of Choir of the World 2017 and the prestigious Pavarotti Trophy, while the title of Dance Champions of the World will be awarded and the overall winners of the folk dance categories will also be named.

The festival will draw to a close on Sunday 9th July with Llanfest 2017, a feast of contemporary music starting from 2pm and headlined by Manic Street Preachers, with support acts to be announced soon.
Tickets are still available to book on the International Eisteddfod’s website www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk.

Music Director of the festival, Eilir Griffiths, said: “We couldn’t be more excited about the 2017 concert schedule. For the last 70 years the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod has brought people from across the globe together in the passionate celebration of music, dance, culture and diversity, exemplifying our values of peace and unity.

“This year’s festival will be a celebration of our history and values but also of our future, as we embrace artists and genres that many may consider not ‘traditional’ to the International Eisteddfod."

Terry Waite CBE , President of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, said: "The word Eisteddfod is the Welsh word for a gathering and that is what the International Musical Eisteddfod truly is. 

"Every year since the end of World War II musicians and artists have gathered together from every corner of the globe to compete and to entertain.  What makes this Eisteddfod unique is that it is all done to promote peace and harmony using the language of music."

Throughout the week there will also be live performances from emerging bands, musicians and street performers from across the globe, as well as activities to entertain the children and food, drink and local craft stalls.

Season ticket holders and Friends of the Eisteddfod are able to book tickets from today, via a special booking form. Tickets will be on sale to the general public from 9am on Thursday 9th February online at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk or via the box office.

* To become a Friend of the Eisteddfod and access priority booking, please visit www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk/get-involved/become-a-friend.

For regular news and updates about the festival follow us on Twitter @llangollen_Eist or like our Facebook page Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod

Monday, January 23, 2017

Calling singers for eisteddfod's celebration chorus


* A chorus on song at an earlier Llangollen Eisteddfod.

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod is calling for passionate singers to join a special Celebration Chorus to mark this year's 70th anniversary of the festival.

An open session for people interested in taking part is being held at St John’s Church in Abbey Road on Saturday January 28, from 10am-1pm.

The chorus will sing during the eisteddfod performing Calling All Dawns by Christopher Tin on Wednesday July 5 to a live audience in the International Pavilion.

Festival musical director Eilir Griffiths said: “The Celebration Chorus has been a highlight of the International Eisteddfod in previous years and we’re excited to continue this proud tradition as we celebrate our 70th anniversary.

“Every year the support from the local community is overwhelming and it’s fantastic to see people actively getting involved in the eisteddfod.

“We encourage anyone with a passion for singing to join us at rehearsals and be part of a special performance of this song-cycle which, with its message of unity, is entirely appropriate for the eisteddfod stage.

"Entry to the chorus is open to anyone who is able to commit to the rehearsal schedule but previous choral experience would be an advantage.

“So, whether you’re a soprano, alto, tenor or bass – or even if you’re not sure what you are - we need you!”

Spaces in the chorus are limited.

* For further information, email info@international-eisteddfod.co.uk, or call 01978 862000.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

AM's challenge over Independent Living Grant

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has challenged the First Minister over the Welsh Government’s decision to transfer the Welsh Independent Living Grant to local authorities.

The Welsh Independent Living Grant helps disabled people to live independently.

Mr Isherwood (pictured), who chairs the Cross Party Group on Disability, told Carwyn Jones of the concerns this is causing disabled people.

In November Mr Isherwood urged the Welsh Government to provide a statement or debate on future support for disabled former recipients of the Independent Living Fund.

In the chamber he said: “Further to the Welsh Government announcement it was transferring the Welsh Independent Living Grant to local authorities, a campaigner in Wrexham, Nathan Davies said he felt that disabled people had been sold down the river and that all they could see was yet more fighting.

"Disability Wales expressed disappointment that the Welsh Government didn’t follow Scotland in setting up an Independent Living Fund (ILF) which Northern Ireland has also commissioned its ILF from.

“How, therefore, will you engage with such concerns to ensure that not only local authorities and health boards, but the Welsh Government itself, is complying with the intention of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, placing a duty on public authorities to promote the involvement of people in the design and delivery of care and support services?”

The First Minister replied: “The decision was taken to enable payments to be made uninterrupted to former recipients in Wales. It was an interim decision, designed to last until 31 March this year, while we considered which arrangements were appropriate to provide support in the longer term.

"Following advice from the stakeholders advisory group, which does include organisations that represent disabled people in Wales, we are introducing, from this April, a two-year transitional arrangement, whereby support in the future will be through normal social care provision.”

Mr Isherwood added: “the UK Government devolved responsibility for the Independent Living Fund, transferring £27 million recurrent annual funding to the Labour Welsh Government, and the Welsh Government introduced its Welsh Independent Living Grant on 1st July 2015, to run until the end of March 2017.
"It should have been designed and delivered with disabled people themselves.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Give legal status to volunteers, says MP

Clwyd South Labour MP Susan Elan Jones (pictured) has called on the Government to give an official legal status to full-time volunteers.

Speaking in the House of Commons as MPs examined the National Citizen Service Bill, she said: "Volunteering does not have any legal status in this country.


"Indeed, volunteers aged 18 and over, or anyone else, could be designated as not in employment, education or training.

"For those aged 18-plus who go on volunteering programmes, there is no agreement that that should mean national insurance contributions and the like. We need to develop those ideas."

The MP also spoke about the importance of involving more young people as charity trustees and in bringing together people from different backgrounds She also paid tribute to the Community Participation element of the Welsh Baccalaureat.

Speaking afterwards, Susan Elan Jones MP said: "In America since the days of President Johnson and President Kennedy, full-time volunteering - or 'service' as it's often called - has a legal status and huge numbers of young people take part in it.

"The same is true also in France, Germany and other countries - and I think it is something we need to look at here too."

Ms Jones will next week serve as a member of the Bill Committee for the National Citizen Service Bill.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Three Musketeers panto is a swashbuckling success


* From left, Jo Potts as D’Artagnan, Tracey Rawlinson
as Athos, Tessa Orton Jones as Porthos and Justine Bradey as Aramis.

The rapier-like wit of the King’s cavaliers thrust straight to the heart of the audience on the glittering first-night of the latest Llangollen panto.

The Pantomime Group took the brave step of breaking away from more traditional fare like Jack and the Beanstalk and Dick Whittington to present The Three Musketeers – with apologies to Alexander Dumas – and it certainly paid off.
It was a lavish chuckle-fest from start to finish, thanks to a huge and talented cast which filled the stage at the Pavilion.

In the title roles were the terrific trio of Tracey Rawlinson, Tessa Orton-Jones and Justine Bradey as, respectively, Athos, Porthos and Aramis.
Testosterone abounded as the threesome swashbuckled and thigh-slapped their way through the plot, actually loosely based on the more serious original, which sees them triumph in their quest to help the Queen of France out of a rather embarrassing situation she’s got herself into with the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Helping the Musketeers along the way is the young and impetuous Gascon who wants to join their ranks, D’Artagnan, played with a real zest by panto stalwart Jo Potts.
Pitted against our heroes is the evil Cardinal Richelieu, played with delicious devilishness by real live Frenchman Nico Decourt.

Also wonderfully nasty and attracting lots of traditional hisses and boos from the crowd in the process is Jo Pearson as Milady de Winter
Taking the role of Queen Anne and her prat of a paramour, the Duke of Tottenham, are one of the best amateur stage comedy duos around, Louise Cielecki and Nathan Lloyd.

And stage-lisping his way through the whole thing with aplomb as King Louis XIII of France is another Llan panto favourite, Simon Orton-Jones, who also has the distinction of directing the show.
It’s a real family affair for him because not only is his missus one of the Musketeers but their two daughters, Millie and Celyn, also have significant roles in the production.

Settings, including some nice video footage of the Musketeers going through their swashbuckling paces in a park – think it’s local rather than Paris – projected behind them as they sing one of their numbers, are extremely inventive.
There’s a good choice of toe-tapping songs interspersing the action, well backed by a six-piece band.

To steal the Musketeers’ famous catchphrase, this show is definitely one for all.    
You can see it tonight, Saturday and Sunday.

Friday, the show starts at 7.30pm (doors open at 7pm).  On Saturday, there are two performances, 1.30pm (doors open at 1pm) and 6pm (doors open at 5.30pm) and a Sunday matinee (doors open 2pm, show 2.30pm). 

* Tickets are also available online at  https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/llangollenpanto and from Jades Hair & Beauty, Llangollen or Gwyn Davies (Butchers), Llangollen.  You can also reserve tickets by calling 01978 860297.      

Thursday, January 19, 2017

County's efforts to combat dog fouling paying off

Efforts to tackle dog fouling in Denbighshire are paying dividends, with a drop in the number of complaints being received over a three-year period.

Figures from January 2013 to the end of 2016 show a declining trend, down from 59 complaints in January 2013 to 38 in November 2016, although there have been an increase in the number of complaints each year in the winter months.
The council has a long-running campaign to tackle dog fouling and environmental crime, with a key focus on education and prevention, as well as enforcement action against those individuals who fail to clear up after their dogs.

Prevention activities have included direct engagement with dog owners about the council’s approach, handing out bags, spraying dog foul with yellow chalk to highlight problem areas, the introduction of yellow glow in the dark signs to deter would be offenders and high visibility patrols.

Dedicated operations have been carried out in ‘hot spot areas’ where there have been regular complaints..

In 2016, there were 77 notices issued to individuals for dog fouling offences.

Councillor David Smith, Cabinet Lead Member for Environment, said: “We are delighted that our efforts are proving successful, but we want to continue with our campaign for clean and tidy streets in Denbighshire.

“Residents have told us that dog fouling is on the top of the list of issues that they want us to address and we have been working tirelessly to raise the profile of dog fouling issues and raising the profile of the matter.

“Of course, the majority of people act responsibly and clear up after their animals. We would like to thank them for that. This message is targeted at those individuals who act in an irresponsible manner and who show disregard to the health and well-being of other people in the community."

* You can report any instances of dog fouling by reporting it through the Council’s website: www.denbighshire.gov.uk/dogfouling or by phoning 01824 706000.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Denbighshire "great place to do business"


Denbighshire County Council is reassuring businesses that the County is a great place to do business and that business start-up and survival rates are improving.

Figures released by Lloyds Banking Group suggest a reduction in business start-ups in the County between November 2011 and November 2016, based on the take up of products from a number of banking groups.

But in Denbighshire the number of active enterprises increased between 2011 and 2015 from 3135 to 3330, while the number of ‘business births’ has increased from 280 a year in 2012 to 350 in 2015.

Business survival rates are very good in the County and show 95 per cent (up from 91 per cent in 2011) of firms opening in Denbighshire continue to trade for at least one year, while more than 60 per cent (up from 52 per cent in 2012) are still trading three years on, which is comparable to the Welsh average.

Cllr Hugh Evans OBE, Denbighshire’s Lead Member for the Economy, said: “As a Council we feel the data presented by Lloyds Banking Group does not represent the full picture.

“The situation in Denbighshire is very positive, with more businesses operating in the County now than in 2011, a healthy number of business start-ups combined with really positive survival rates. We feel this is a much better indicator of success.

“The message we want to send to businesses is that a large majority of those that start in the County survive beyond three years. That makes Denbighshire an excellent place to start a business.

“Denbighshire, and its partners, are working hard to support businesses as part of its Economic and Community Ambition Programme by offering a wealth of advice and support, providing grants to assist firms looking to expand, as well as streamlining the regulation process to save traders time and money.

“By providing a supportive and business friendly environment - a key Council priority - we’ve helped to make Denbighshire an excellent place to start and run a business.

“We have also made it easier for businesses looking to relocate to the county by offering a quick and professional service. An example of this having a positive effect was the recent £6million investment by the Real Petfood Company at Bodelwyddan.”

A recent survey of Denbighshire businesses found more firms were looking to maintain staff numbers (82 per cent) and are expecting sales and profitability to improve (64 per cent) than in the 2015 survey.

The survey, undertaken by BE Group, which had 496 respondents, found more firms (54 per cent) were expecting to invest in capital, up from 37 per cent in 2015.

Denbighshire County Council will soon be announcing details of its annual March for Business month, a series of free networking, advice and workshop sessions for businesses both small and large. 

There will be a wide-range of events covering topics including retail skills, starting a new business, digital skills and how to create a healthier and happier working environment.

* For more information on March For Business contact econ.dev@denbighshire.gov.uk or 01824 706896 or follow @ebddcc on Twitter.
 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Steam gala celebrates double 50th aniversary


* Ex-LMS 8F No. 48624 will take pride of place in the Spring Steam Gala. 

Llangollen Railway will be celebrating the end of the Paddington to Woodside Expresses 50 years on at its Spring Steam Gala over the weekend of March 3-5.

Along Birkenhead Lines will feature an intensive timetable of both passenger and mixed traffic trains, a great collection of historic steam locomotives and special attractions along the line.

The weekend also marks the 50th anniversary of two significant events - the last steam-hauled Cambrian Coast Express and 50 years since the last through working from London Paddington to Birkenhead (Woodside).

A railway spokesperson said: "Work is in hand to make this gala one of the most historically accurate and authentic steam events yet achieved at Llangollen. Expect to see cameos, displays, recreations and all the appropriate paper ephemera."

The gala will feature a number of special visiting steam locomotives :
  • LMS 8F No.48624 (c/o The 48624 Locomotive Group & GCR PLC)
  • GWR No.6960 "Raveningham Hall" (c/o West Somerset Railway)
  • LMS 'Flying Pig' No.43106 (c/o The Ivatt Class 4 Group & Severn Valley Railway)
In addition, the Llangollen Railway's 'home fleet' pool of locos for this event will be:
  • LMS 'Black 5' No.45337 (making her return after overhaul)
  • BR Standard Four tank No. 80072
  • GWR '5101' Large Prairie No.5199
  • BR Manor No. 7822 "Foxcote Manor"
  • Class 03 Diesel No.03162 (a former Birkenhead shunter)
The visiting Ivatt Class 4MT 43106 was the last BR steam locomotive to travel between Chester and Shrewsbury, on 1st August 1968.

The loco's journey was carefully routed to limit movement 'under the wires' and travelled via Frodsham, Chester, Wrexham and Shrewsbury on its way to Stourbridge Junction for preservation on the Severn Valley Railway at Bridgnorth.

* Download our FREE Advanced Information booklet for the latest news on the gala from: http://www.llangollen-railway.co.uk/event/spring-steam-gala-3rd-march/

Monday, January 16, 2017

MP calls for new domestic violence law

Clwyd South Labour MP Susan Elan Jones MP has called on the Government to urgently bring in a law that would stop perpetrators of domestic abuse from directly cross-examining their victims within the family court system.

Questioning Minister of State for Courts and Justice Rt Hon Oliver Heald MP in the House of Commons Chamber recently, Ms Jones (pictured) said: "Everyone who has spoken today, including the Minister, has said the situation is urgent.

"In view of that and the fact that he said primary legislation will be needed, is there any reason why he cannot commit to the Government presenting that within three or four months?"


After her Commons exchange, Ms Jones said: "This dreadful practice is rightly banned in our criminal courts and it shouldn't be allowed within the family court system either.

"It needs to be stopped urgently. The Government has now committed to banning the practice, but there must be no further delay. It really isn't right how people can be directly confronted and questioned by those who have been violent and abusive towards them."

One possible solution was suggested by Justice Select Committee Chair, Robert Neill MP, who said the simplest answer would be to adopt the criminal provisions “lock, stock and barrel” and accept that the “modest” cost of a court-appointed advocate to undertake the cross-examination was necessary.


* The parliamentary exchange can be seen at:
http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/6eda3191-6f6f-4e7c-8e6a-8c3f40918f69?in=16:12:28
https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-01-09a.34.5

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter weather advice from ambulance service


WITH Wales having its first wintry weather, the Welsh Ambulance Service is reminding members of the public to stay safe and use the service appropriately.

The Trust is taking extra precautions to ensure it can continue to get help to patients during the adverse weather by making its
4x4 vehicles available to respond and topping up stocks of salt on stations.

Ambulances are also fitted with winter tyres which work more efficiently on snow or ice.

The Trust’s dedicated falls teams are on standby for the likely increase in trips and falls.

North Wales’ Community Assistance Team – a partnership with North Wales Fire and Rescue Service which aims to reduce the number of people who need to attend hospital after a fall – will be rolled out into Flintshire and Wrexham temporarily in preparation for increased demand.

The Trust is appealing to all patients who have booked transport via its Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service to make contact if they no longer need transport‎.

These patients are also advised that there may be potential delays to their transport if adverse weather hits, and so are encouraged to bring with them essentials like medication, food and money.

Director of Operations Richard Lee said:
We are closely monitoring the weather forecast for Wales and have contingency plans in place to deal with the adverse conditions currently predicted across the region.

“We are also working with other emergency services and organisations to make sure we can get medical help to a patient in the safest manner in wintry conditions.

“We are well prepared to deliver the same high standard of care to the people of Wales, but inevitably when it is snowy or icy our responses may take longer.

“We would ask the public to help us by keeping well and using the 999 system wisely.”
There are extra precautions people can take to protect themselves from the risks associated with cold weather so they don’t become ill or injured.Richard has this advice for the public.
Top tips to keep well this winter
·        Check that your heating system works properly – keep the temperature in the room you are using at around 21°C
·        Dress for warmth and comfort, putting on several thinner layers of clothing to trap the heat – wear warm, dry, flat boots or shoes with good non-slip soles, especially in frosty or wet weather
·        Eat a well-balanced diet with hot meals every day – have regular hot drinks to give you extra warmth and energy
·        Keep a well-stocked medicine cabinet – check you have enough basic medicines at home to manage common ailments, such as coughs, colds, headaches, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhoea
·        Keep an eye on your neighbours to ensure they are looking after themselves
·        Take extra care in the mornings when it’s likely to be most icy – elderly residents are particularly at risk of slipping and falling while going about everyday tasks like taking the bins out or even feeding the birds. That can lead to serious injuries such as broken limbs or hips, requiring surgery and a stay in hospital
·        Instead, when it gets icy, they are advised to stay indoors; and if possible get a fit and healthy friend or relative to run any errands for them. Or, wait until later in the day when ice has thawed.
·        Make sure your vehicle is winter ready carry an emergency kit in your boot – this should include an ice scraper, torch, first aid kit, blankets and jump leads
·        Drive responsibly in poor visibility and conditions – it's better to drive slowly and smoothly to avoid braking sharply
·        If you’re forced to abandon your vehicle in heavy snow, please park it responsibly so that emergency vehicles can pass
The public are reminded that there are a host of alternatives to 999 and the Emergency Department.
If you’re ill and unsure what to do, take one of the many NHS Direct Wales online symptom checkers for tailored advice.

You can also call the service on 0845 46 47 for 24/7 health advice and information – or 111 if you live in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board area.
You can also visit your GP, pharmacist or nearest Minor Injuries Unit, where there is no need for an appointment.
Ambulances are for serious and life-threatening emergencies only.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Roadshows on how to become a councillor

Denbighshire County Council will be hitting the road with a series of information roadshows aimed at the county’s residents who are thinking of becoming a county councillor.

The next county council elections will take place on Thursday, May 4 on the same day as the city, town and community council elections. 

Council representatives will be on hand at the roadshows to provide information on the role of the county councillor, how the Council works, the issues county councillors will face after the elections, the nomination and election process and the support available to councillors once elected. Serving councillors will also be available to share their experiences and insights on the office of elected member.

The roadshows will take place at the following locations:

Fforddlas Community Centre, Rhyl – Tuesday, January 24
Conference Room 1a, County Hall, Ruthin – Tuesday, 31 January
Restaurant at the Nova, Prestatyn – Wednesday, February 8
Denbigh Town Hall – Tuesday, February 28

All events will begin at 7.30pm and will last for approximately two hours.

Whilst booking is not essential, it would be useful if people could register their attendance at one of the workshops by e-mailing:  democratic@denbighshire.gov.uk or by phone: 01824 712589. 

For further information about any aspects of the elections process, including nomination packs,  please visit: http://www.denbighshire.gov.uk/elections or call 01824 706000.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Eisteddfod receives £1,000 boost from Rotary


* From left, Denbigh Rotary Club president Gwynfor Evans,
Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod competitor
liaison officer Merle Hunt and Rotarian Gwyrfai Jones with the £1,000 donation.
 
The Rotary Club of Denbigh has made a donation of £1,000 to Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in its 70th anniversary year.

The money will go towards the eisteddfod’s bursary fund, which supports competitors from across the globe who require financial assistance to attend and compete at the festival.

"The club has supported the Llangollen Eisteddfod for many years, with many of our members attending every year,” said Rotary Club spokesman John Davies.

“We’re proud to show our support of this iconic festival which is such a large part of the area’s heritage.”

Merle Hunt, competitors liaison officer for the eisteddfod, said: “As a not-for-profit organisation, we rely on donations, sponsorships and support from volunteers.

“We would also like to extend our thanks to the many other Rotary Clubs in the local area that support the eisteddfod, both financially and with the gift of their time as volunteers.  

“It is these supporters who make it possible for the eisteddfod to continue each year.”

This year's eisteddfod takes place from Monday-Sunday July 3-9.

* For more information and to buy tickets, go to: www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Latest Llan panto is one for all


* From left, Jo Potts as D’Artagnan, Tracey Rawlinson
as Athos, Tessa Orton Jones as Porthos and Justine Bradey as Aramis.

Llangollen Pavilion will be transformed into the scandalous court of Louis XIII as the town’s Pantomime Group perform The Three Musketeers.

The historical tale gets the traditional pantomime treatment as the young and impetuous D’Artagnan strives to find the missing piece of the True Quiche of Lorraine, helped, somewhat reluctantly, by the three musketeers, Athos, Aramis and Porthos. 

Will they be able to save Queen Anne, whose reckless flirtations with the Duke of Tottenham have got her into rather a pickle, or will Louis send her to the dungeon to meet her fate at the hands of the evil Cardinal Richelieu?

The pantomime, which has been running in Llangollen for more than 30 years, will take place from January 19-22.

Its director, Simon Orton-Jones from Pengwern, Llangollen, said: “The Three Musketeers may not be a traditional pantomime story but it lends itself very well to this sort of production.

“In typical panto fashion, the three musketeers, along with d'Artagnan, are played by women, there’s a pantomime dame, played by a man and for the first time in a long time, the pantomime horse returns to our production.

“The cast and crew are working hard to ensure this is an entertaining and memorable show.”

Two former pupils from Ysgol Dinas Bran who have recently completed courses at Drama School take on two lead roles.  Louise Cielecki plays Queen Anne and Nathan Lloyd plays The Duke of Tottenham.
 
A live band will accompany the production with music from, amongst others, Justin Timberlake, One Direction and Duran Duran.  

The Three Musketeers runs from Thursday, January 19 to Sunday, January 22 at Llangollen Pavilion. 

On Thursday and Friday, the show starts at 7.30pm (doors open at 7pm).  On Saturday, there are two performances, 1.30pm (doors open at 1pm) and 6pm (doors open at 5.30pm) and a Sunday matinee (doors open 2pm, show 2.30pm). 

* Tickets are also available online at  https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/llangollenpanto and from Jades Hair & Beauty, Llangollen or Gwyn Davies (Butchers), Llangollen.  You can also reserve tickets by calling 01978 860297.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

County prepares for wintry weather


With weather warnings in place, Denbighshire County Council says it has plans in place to deal with snow and icy conditions.

If freezing temperatures are predicted, the council will be out and about treating main A and B class roads, as well as key routes between villages.

During each salting run, there are nine vehicles out and about  treating 570 km of roads.

The council’s gritting teams operate from depots at Bodelwyddan, Ruthin and Corwen and there is currently 3,600 tonnes of salt in place, with further stocks available from suppliers at short notice, if required.

The council also  has an arrangement in place with 25 local contractors to assist with the work of clearing minor routes countywide.

Councillor David Smith, Cabinet Lead Member for Environment, said: “The weather forecast seems to be changing virtually by the hour  and it is difficult to predict how much snow, if any we will experience in the county.

“However, we can assure residents that we have teams of staff on stand- by across the county and we are monitoring all the latest weather updates coming in.  We will take the necessary action to deal with the condition and to keep the roads as clear as possible.

“We would ask people to keep an eye on the weather forecasts online, social media, television and radio.”

In the event of any school closures, the council’s website: www.denbighshire.gov.uk and social media accounts will be updated.

Politicians voice concern over water company's future

Shareholders of a company have been urged to think of the workforce and local jobs when they vote on its future.

The Dee Valley Water board will decide which of two rival bids to accept on Thursday morning (January 12), with employees at the firm’s Rhostyllen headquarters having previously raised concerns about a possible takeover by Severn Trent Water.

The Coventry-based company has outbid investment firm Ancala, which is the workforce’s preferred option.

Clwyd South AM Ken Skates and MP Susan Elan Jones, along with Wrexham MP Ian Lucas, have put their names to a series of letters supporting the staff.

A joint statement by Mr Skates and Ms Jones said: “As the people elected to serve this area, we continue to fight for the Dee Valley workforce and for the people of Clwyd South. The employees have made it clear what they want, and we have supported them throughout this process. We continue to do so.

“First Minister Carwyn Jones spoke in Senedd about Dee Valley Water and said he could not support any change that would mean the loss of jobs at Rhostyllen. People’s livelihoods must be the primary concern when shareholders’ cast their vote.”

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas added: “This is a crucial meeting where the future of a valued local employer will be decided. Shareholders should understand that hundreds of jobs will be affected by the decisions they take and I would urge them to listen to the views of the people who work for Dee Valley Water.”

The three Labour politicians have previously said Severn Trent has not offered sufficient guarantees over jobs and welcomed Ancala’s intention to retain Dee Valley Water’s operations and brand.

Dee Valley Water employs about 180 people and has 230,000 customers across the Wrexham and Chester areas. The company’s average household bill is £126, compared to Severn Trent’s average of £174.

County offers grants to boost companies' digital profile

Firms looking for a digital makeover can now take advantage of a business grant.

Denbighshire County Council’s Business Development Grant scheme has awarded more than £71,000 to 17 Denbighshire firms since April last year.

The grant has been expanded to offer more financial support for businesses looking to take advantage of digital technology to help stimulate local innovation, improve competitiveness and help reach new markets.

This includes opportunities for all types of businesses, including firms looking to take bookings online and send automatic appointment reminders by text or email or replacing their old telephone systems with cheaper internet based systems.

Cllr Hugh Evans OBE, leader of Denbighshire, said: “Even the smallest business can benefit from this grant.

“Websites have well established benefits for trade and in 2017 more funding is available for local businesses to create their own high quality online presence and even venture into selling online.

“I would encourage eligible businesses in the county to apply for a grant as soon as possible as the funding is awarded on a first come, first served basis.”

Up to 75 per cent of costs may be funded and proposals will have to demonstrate how the investment will develop the business.

The scheme, which forms part of the Council’s Economic and Community Ambition Programme, also offers funding to new and existing businesses to create employment, improve business competitiveness and create a vibrant local economy.

As well as increasing the funding for the digital element of the scheme, the overall cap of the grant has been raised from £5,000 to £10,000 and the limit on applicants’ annual turnover has increased from £250,000 to £500,000.

* For more information or to apply for a Business Development Grant from Denbighshire County Council visit Denbighshire.gov.uk/business or contact 01824 706896.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Llangollen WI's committee for 2017

Llangollen WI has sent in this picture of members of their committee for 2017.


Railway volunteers get to work tidying trackside



* Volunteers at work on the line of Llangollen Railway
near Berwyn. Picture by David Roberts.

Over the winter period, it is a common misconception that the Llangollen Railway goes into slumber mode until the trains restart in mid-February.

In fact, it is a busy time for the volunteers and staff to undertake maintenance tasks along the line in readiness for visitors in 2017.

In the area around Berwyn a large amount of work has been going on to manage the vegetation growing along the lineside.

This is a regular but often ‘behind the scenes’ part of railway operations and enables the travelling public to see the countryside through which the railway runs instead of a green corridor.

Last Saturday a dozen volunteers were on hand to assist with the clearing and burning the vegetation on the embankment to the east of the station.

The stockpiled brushwood from two years ago proved to be perfect basis for some lineside bonfires, which were kept well fed with freshly cut saplings and branches throughout the day.

The ground was also strimmed using a heavy-duty power tool, to give a neat finish.

The exposed retaining wall appears to be in good condition, although its exposure will enable a more detailed structural survey to be carried out.

Unmanaged trees and plants can cause serious safety problems for the railway by covering up signals or falling on to the tracks.

Any lineside clearance work done on the Llangollen Railway is conducted outside of the bird nesting season.

The areas of lineside vegetation proposed for clearance work are carefully inspected for birds' nests prior to any work commencing.

The Railway has said a massive thank you to everyone who has participated in the clearance work so far this season.

Monday, January 9, 2017

AM "seriously concerned" over regional prosperity figures

* See response from Wales's Economy Secretary Ken Skates at the foot of the story ...

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood says he is seriously concerned that the publication of new economic prosperity figures show North Wales is trailing even further behind the rest of the UK. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published regional gross value added (GVA) figures for 2015, which measure the value of the goods and services per head of population produced in an economy.

They show that at £16,059, West Wales and the Valleys, including four North Wales counties, Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy and Denbighshire, still has the lowest GVA of all UK sub regions, down again to just 63.3% of the UK average.

West Wales and The Valleys has had the lowest GVA per head of all UK sub-regions in each of the years1997 to 2015, moving relatively further away from the UK average since the start of the time period.

Anglesey still has the lowest GVA amongst all UK local areas at £13,411, down again to just 52.9% of the UK average.

Even GVA per head in Wrexham and Flintshire, which stood at 99.3 per cent of the UK average in 1999, has fallen again to just 84% of the UK average.

At £18,002, Wales continues to have the lowest GVA per head amongst the 12 UK nations and regions, standing at only 71% of the UK average.

Mr Isherwood (pictured) said: “With Labour Welsh Government in charge of economic development in Wales since 1999, this record of failure is a betrayal of North Wales, demanding a change of direction.

“The UK Government announced in its March 2016 Budget that it was ‘opening the door’ to a Growth Deal for North Wales and that it would be looking for the next Welsh Government to devolve powers down and invest in the region as part of any future deal.

“Proposals detailed in "A Growth Vision for the Economy of North Wales", developed by the North Wales Economic Ambition Board in partnership with the Mersey Dee Alliance and the Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, went to both the UK and Welsh Government’s last summer.

“The UK Treasury responded by asking the Ambition Board to detail their strategic priorities and prioritise projects, and the Chancellor’s  Autumn Statement in November 2016 confirmed that the UK Government continued to be open to discussing options for a Growth Deal with North Wales.

“However, the Welsh Government has dodged my questions about how and whether it has responded to the call in the North Wales Growth Vision document for the devolution of powers by the Welsh Government over employment, taxes, skills and transport, which it states ‘would boost the economy, jobs and productivity, create at least 120,000 jobs, and boost the value of the local economy from £12.8 billion to £20 billion by 2035’.

“After almost 18 years of Labour excuses, the time has come to enable North Wales to become a beacon of prosperity, vision and ambition.”

The Economy Secretary, Ken Skates said:  “Latest GVA figures show an improving  picture for Wales, with 2015’s total  GVA for Wales  standing at £55.8 billion, an increase of 3 per cent on the previous year and rising faster than the UK average.

“The figures also show  that GVA per head  increased by  2.8 per cent on 2014 figures in Wales compared to an increase of 2.1 per cent for the UK,  and last year stood at £18,002.

“Latest  figures mean Wales’ increase in GVA per head was the third highest of UK countries and regions.

“We recognise there is  more to do  and we will keep working hard to grow Wales’ economy. Developments  such as our  Valleys Taskforce, Wylfa Newydd and our plans for the Third Menai Crossing will all help to drive up GVA in some of Wales’ less prosperous communities.

“There is absolutely no room for complacency but these figures  do show that our pro-business approach is driving growth and  making a real difference to the lives of ordinary people  across Wales.”