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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MP still locked inside Parliament praises police over London terrorist attack

Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones is amongst those still locked inside Parliament for their own safety following this afternoon's terrorist attack outside the building.

But she has warmly praised the emergency services for the way they have been handling the emergency.  

Media reports say at least two people are dead after a terror attacker brought carnage to central London, mowing down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before attacking police with a knife in the grounds of the Houses of Parliament.

At least 10 people were been hit by a vehicle on the bridge after a 4x4 drove into pedestrians and cyclists before crashing into the gates of Parliament.

An intruder then managed to break into the grounds of the Parliament and stabbed a police officer before he was shot and injured.

It is reported that the policeman is feared to have since died.

Ms Jones has just texted to llanblogger and confirming she was safe and said: "Police and security have handled things. We can't leave Parliament building yet, though."

She added: "My thoughts and prayers are with those injured and the families and friends of the people who have been killed.

"Huge thanks to our superb police and security services.

"The terrorists must never be allowed to win."    

Town council explains 38% precept rise


A llanblogger reader recently queried what he understood to be an increase of 38% in the precept element of the local council tax which goes to help finance Llangollen Town Council. Here, Town Clerk Gareth Thomas explains the situation:  

Your reader is correct as the precept will increase by 38% but his only equates to an annual increase of £21.37 on each band D property.  The rationale for this increase is detailed below.

In considering the draft budget for 2017/18 the Members of the Finance Working, in liaison with the Town Clerk consider a number of factors. 

The Town Council’s financial regulations state that the Council shall consider annual budget proposals in relation to a three year forecast of revenue and capital receipts and payments including recommendations for the use of reserves and sources of funding. 

The Good Councillors Guide also suggests that good practice to follow the PBP principle; Policy creates the Budget that determines the Precept. The Working Group therefore embarked on the production of a draft business plan, a statement of the Town Council’s vision for the town, its purpose, values, objectives and key priorities over the next five years.

The Working Group also consider that a well-run authority should have a prudent approach to setting its budget, and in each year it should consider its level of general balances. These general balances will also need to be supported by earmarked reserves for specific needs and commitments. In coming to a view on the adequacy of the Town Council’s reserves, account needs to be taken of the risks facing the Council in terms of any significant unforeseen spending commitments. 

Given the Town Council’s commitment to the refurbishment of the Town Hall, with the support of external funding, the working group were of the opinion that the Town Hall reserve needs to be continually strengthened with support for under-spends in the repair and renewal funds. 

In addition to ensure that adequate provision is maintained for other assets most notable the chain bridge , then a new repair and renewal fund needed to be established for that purpose, and again under-spends would be transferred to this specific reserve at year end.

In addition to the influences of the above, a number of growth items need to be budgeted for in 2017/18.  The first is the potential cost of an election (£4,000) as a result of the Local Council Elections 2017 and subsequent Member training (£770), the increases in NNDR following the revaluation of the Town Hall (£2100), and the new requirement to contribute to a workplace pension scheme (£550).

One other factor that needed to be considered was how to fund the proposed works to the Royal Gardens and the War Memorial. The estimated sum required by the Town Council would be £48,000 of which £3,000 was available from reserves.   The funding of the remainder could be achieved by either a loan from the Public Works Loan Board or from the revenue budget.

In respect of a loan, the original funds for the purchase of Royal Garden’s ends in December 2016 and therefore the budget line for loan repayments will reduce significantly in 2017/18 a new loan could be applied for but clearly with interest the cost of the loan would be an additional £1,624. 

Another option suggested was funding via the precept with other cost centres being withdrawn and the funds would be diverted to support project funding.  It was this option that the Town Council resolved to support and therefore this would place a one off increase of £13.85, in addition to other growth items on the precept, for 2017/18

The breakdown of the cost increases are shown below


Band D Per annum
After single occupancy discount
Weekly
After single occupancy discount
Band D
£21.37

£0.41

Statutory cost increases.




Election cost
£2.34

£0.05

Member Training
£0.45

£0.01

NNDR
£1.05

£0.02

Total
£3.84
£2.88
£0.07
£0.05
Growth Items.




Insurance
£0.29

£0.01

Telecoms
£0.47

£0.01

Staff Training
£0.29

£0.01

Christmas Lighting
£1.17

£0.02

Contribution to Chain Bridge reserve
£1.46

£0.03

Equipment
£0.59

£0.01

Total
3.68
£2.76
£0.09
0.07
War Memorial Project (Centenary  Square)
£13.85
£10.39
£0.25
£0.18

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Llan cinema raises awareness of refugees


* From left, Jen Sandiford, Jan Wallis and Sue Hall. Picture: New Dot Cinema.

New Dot Cinema Llangollen was joined by members of the Llangollen Refugee Support Network at its latest screening.

The film was a  heartwarming French comedy called 'Le Havre' about a young refugee boy.

To complement the film, Jan Wallis from the Support Network talked briefly about the work they do.

They are currently supporting a Syrian family in the local area.

New Dot secretary Jen Sandiford said: "It's great to hear that local people are so warm and welcoming to those in need. We're pleased to be able to help raise awareness of their good work."

The film was very well received with positive comments heard when the lights came up.

Thanks to the continued attendance of it's loyal audience, New Dot was able to make a donation of £50 to the network.

New Dot screens monthly in Llangollen Town Hall. The next film is a dark sci-fi starring Scarlett Johansson, called Under the Skin on Friday April 7.

* For more information go to: http://www.NewDotCinema.org or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NewDotCinema/

Monday, March 20, 2017

Council sends out fish seller warning

Denbighshire’s Public Protection officers are warning consumers across the county to beware of salesmen trying to persuade householders to buy fresh fish.

There have been reports to Denbighshire Trading Standards and North Wales Police in the last week of traders selling door to door in the Dee Valley area, asking residents, including older people, if they would like to buy fish.


Emlyn Jones, Public Protection Manager said: “We have concerns regarding the matter, especially as to whether the fish sellers are registered as a food business operator which is a legal requirement for all food businesses, and indeed if they are adhering to all food safety and hygiene regulations which applies to such businesses, including the display of the relevant food hygiene rating for the business.
“When buying fish from door to door salesmen, the purchaser very often has no way of knowing how the fish have been stored and whether they are safe to eat.
"These type of sellers commonly use non-refrigerated vans, and there may be issues with the labelling, quality and descriptions of the fish and they may pressurise residents to buy more than they actually need.
“As with any doorstep caller we would urge people not to be tempted to buy and ask them to leave. The best place to buy fish is from a reputable fishmonger at an established shop or stall or even with a trader with a regular pre-arranged round.”
* Anyone wanting advice on doorstep trading, or to report an incident, can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 (03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language) which gives free, independent and impartial advice on all consumer issues, or the police on 101. 

The council says any person feeling intimidated or threatened by any doorstep seller should shut the door and call the police emergency number 999. 

Plas Newydd gearing up for April 1 opening


* Plas Newydd opens for the new season on April 1.

Three of Denbighshire’s popular heritage attractions are gearing up to open their doors for the 2017 season.

Plas Newydd in Llangollen, Ruthin Gaol and Nantclwyd  y Dre in Ruthin will open to the public from April 1 and have a number of exciting family-friendly events lined up over the coming months.

Ruthin Gaol and Nantclwyd y Dre have retained the Visit Wales Hidden Gem Award  for the second year running and Ruthin Gaol and Plas Newydd also got the thumbs up from TripAdvisor users, having achieved a  Certificate of Excellence following a host of positive reviews from visitors in 2016.

Final preparations are now underway to ensure the venues are looking their best for the season opening.

Denbighshire’s Heritage Service says it would like to thank all the volunteers, including pupils from Ysgol Tir Morfa in Rhyl, who have helped tend the gardens at Nantclwyd y Dre and Plas Newydd throughout the winter months.

First event of the year will take place at Plas Newydd this Saturday March 18.

The pre-season Primrose walk around the grounds with the gardener costs £3 and includes a primrose to take home.

Nantclwyd y Dre will host its first event a Beastly Bug Hunt for all the family on Monday May 8.

Ruthin Gaol hosts Captured on Camera on Thursday June 1 where visitors will have the opportunity to create their own ‘WANTED’ poster. 

In the run-up to the opening in April and to celebrate Year of Legends in Wales, the gaol is sharing stories of some of its most colourful characters via an online blog at www.ruthingaolblog.wordpress.com.

* More information about the venues and forthcoming events can be found at:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cigarette blamed for hillside blaze near Llan

A discarded cigarette has been blamed for the huge fire which ripped through a hillside near Llangollen earlier this week, reports the Leader today (Friday).



* For the full story, see: http://www.leaderlive.co.uk/news/173826/cigarette-to-blame-for-huge-gorse-blaze-near-llangollen.aspx

Fringe returns for 20th edition this July

Llangollen Fringe Festival will return for its 20th edition this July.

From its small beginnings back in 1998 the festival will see over 5,000 people visit the town for 11 days of music, theatre, dance, literature and more.


Starting out in a tent on a farmer’s field Llan Fringe, as it is affectionately known, has grown to encompass the entire town and over the years has gained a reputation for attracting famous and sometimes controversial names to its picturesque corner of North East Wales. 
Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst were both early guests at the Fringe, with the latter giving a workshop in ‘spin painting’ – some of the works produced have since gone on to sell for thousands at auction.
As well as numerous performances from famous bands and musicians from around the world, including Gruff Rhys, The Buzzcocks, Wilko Johnson, Cerys Matthews, Charlotte church, Yat Kha and Lee ‘Scratch' Perry (pictured), the Fringe was also one of the first events to host a performance by notorious international drug smuggler Howard Marks, as well as a photographic exhibition by the German terrorist gang member, Astrid Prohl, both creating considerable controversy at the time.
The festival has evolved quite considerably in the past 20 years.
Whilst still boasting a prestigious line up of acts and celebrity names, its events take place in many locations in and around the town centre – this year for example, you can catch a play at Plas Newydd stately home, a jazz quartet on the Canal Boat, a Soul Band on the Steam Train or a magical concert at Llangollen Town Hall or Valle Crucis Abbey.
The first acts will be revealed on Friday April 7, with a limited amount of early bird festival tickets going on sale the same day.
Head to http://www.llangollenfringe.co.uk and sign up for the mailing list to receive an exclusive chance to buy early bird tickets before the 7th!
Llangollen Fringe 20th Anniversary Festival takes place from Thursday 13th to Sunday 23rd July.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Llan photo club helps enhance Wrexham's image



* An image on Wrexham captured during Positography.


* One of the pictures taken during the event of Wrexham town centre.

More than 50 photographers both professional and budding amateurs spent  last Sunday morning taking positive photographs of Wrexham.

Organisers from Llangollen Friendly Photography Club  set up the event to counter what they describe as the recent national negative media coverage of the town.

Their aim was to promote Wrexham's positive side and they called the event “Positography”.

The club's Andy Humphriss said: “Photographers came from far and wide to attend the event, with a wide range of ages from eight to 80, different  skills, different interests and a wide spectrum of cameras, phones and  tablets. Everyone was so positive and focused on achieving fantastic
images of the town.

“We hope to have a pop-up gallery of images in the not too distant future.

"We must thank King Street Coffee Company for opening up their shop especially for our event and Wayne Price at Calon FM for the fantastic publicity.

"I’ve made so many new friends all with the same ambition - to add a little light to Wrexham.”

When asked if this will become a regular event, the club's Paul McNulty said: “I certainly hope so. We we had some very enthusiastic interest from one of the local tour guides on the day.

"He saw the opportunity to promote the tourist side of Wrexham’s economy and has invited us to a walking tour of the local area.

"Everyone from Sunday’s event really enjoyed themselves and are all wishing for another day out in Wrexham, camera in hand.”

* For more information on joining the next “Positography” event or to view their work, contact the organisers on Facebook via their “Llangollen Friendly Photography” group or the “Wrexham Matters” Facebook group.

Outstanding viewing figures for chamber website

Llangollen Chamber of Trade and Tourism's new website has achieved some impressive figures.

At their recent annual meeting chamber members were told that the site attracted over 200,000 unique visitors during 2016 and notched up over five million hits, which they described as "outstanding".

The website features Llangollen’s wide range of businesses together with a popular diary which is used by local organisations to publicise their events.

Chamber chair David Davies said: “We are delighted at the attention our website attracted in 2016 and this shows a great investment on behalf of our members.

"The annual subscription is £52 so for just £1 a week members are featured on a top-ranking, international website. The address Llangollen.org.uk is also displayed on our street banners along the A5 and Castle Street, which has helped generate further interest.

"Members are being reminded they must renew their subscription by the end of the month to ensure they still feature on the site and, of course, new members are always welcome.

"We are currently establishing both Facebook and Twitter accounts and members are being offered courses in social media to fully exploit their potential.”

* The website can be viewed at www.llangollen.org.uk and membership details can be obtained from Rodger Honey, membership secretary, contact@cambrianhouse.plus.com

Firefighters tackle hillside fire




The BBC is reporting today (Thursday) that firefighters have been tackling a large blaze on a hillside above Llangollen.

For full details see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-39287355

More information is now available at: http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/firefighters-battling-huge-llangollen-heather-12748691

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Warning over bogus council tax phone calls

Residents  in Denbighshire are being urged to be on their guard against bogus telephone calls claiming to be phoning regarding council tax.

A resident received a call advising her that her council tax band had been reduced for 13 years and there was a credit due on their account.

The caller then requested bank details, to arrange for the refund to be credited to the account.  

The resident rightly refused to give her details and ended the call before contacting Denbighshire’s Council Tax team to inform them of the call.

The call came from the Dundee area of Scotland.

Denbighshire County Council says it would like to emphasise that it would never instruct an external company to contact residents directly and people should never give out personal details in response to unexpected calls of this nature.
 

County joins new Buy with Confidence scheme

A partnership project aimed at protecting consumers in North Wales will be officially launched today (Wednesday, March 15th).

Trading Standards from the region’s six local authorities have joined forces to deliver Buy With Confidence (BWC) and ensure that people can access reliable services and businesses.

The North Wales Buy With Confidence Scheme will be officially launched at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay. The launch also marks World Consumer Rights Day.

The nationally recognised trader approval programme was originally  designed to ensure businesses operate in a legal, honest and fair way, and tackle ‘rogue traders’. It also provides consumers with a list of local businesses which have given their commitment to trading fairly.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Richard Powell, Chair of the North Wales Heads of Trading Standards Group, explained, “Buy With Confidence is an important scheme which enables Trading Standards in North Wales to showcase reliable businesses we are proud to recommend, and then allows consumers to make educated choices and avoid getting ripped off.”

The scheme is open to any manner of businesses wishing to apply to advertise themselves as “Trading Standards  Approved”, and must take part in a series of detailed checks by Trading Standards which will then be continually  monitored for their quality of service.

North Wales BWC is eager to attract more of the region’s businesses in paticular those in the home maintenance and gardening sectors, domestic cleaners and general skilled tradesmen.

Emlyn Jones, Denbighshire’s Public Protection Manager,  said, “North Wales Buy With Confidence is a great example of partnership working by local authorities on behalf of the consumer.

“All prospective members are thoroughly vetted by Trading Standards staff before being allowed to join the scheme and we also continuously monitor the performance of the BWC members. In the unlikely event that concerns are raised about a member we take appropriate action and if necessary will remove them from the scheme.”

Individuals working in domestic properties will also undergo Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks as part of the BWC accreditation, providing customers, and especially those most vulnerable in our communities, with added reassurance.

If you want to promote your business as approved by Trading Standards or want to find an approved trader, please visit www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk or the North Wales Buy With Confidence Facebook page.

The first Buy With Confidence Scheme was set-up in by a partnership of local authorities in the South of England.

Have your say on learner transport policy

Denbighshire residents are urged to have their say on a revised Learner Transport Policy for pupils across the county. 


The current Home to School Transport 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, Denbighshire’s 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."
* The amended document can be found on the council’s website: www.denbighshire.gov.uk/consultations, by phoning Education Support on 01824 706000, by writing to: Education Support, Denbighshire County Council, PO Box 62, Ruthin, LL15 9AZ or by e-mail: admissions@denbighshire.gov.uk

Copies of the consultation documents are also available at all Denbighshire libraries.

The consultation begian on March 13 and ends on April 30, 2017.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Llan hit by loss of EE signal

Users of the EE network in Llangollen have been without a mobile phone signal for a number of hours today (Tuesday).

llanblogger has contacted the company where a representative in the tech department said that Llan was just part of a much wider area affected by a fault in the system.

It was suggested that the problems extended all the way from Denbigh to Snowdonia.

llanblogger was also told that, coincidentally, maintenance or upgrading work was also being carried out on Llangollen's specific mast which might be contributing the loss of signal.

EE said they were working on rectifying the problem but could give no indication of when the signal might be restored.

Skates backs axing of Right to Buy in Wales

At least 12,000 council houses in North East Wales have been lost to the private sector through the ‘damaging’ Right to Buy scheme, claims an Assembly member.

First Minister Carwyn Jones recently announced Right to Buy will be suspended in Flintshire to help ensure social housing is available for those who need it.

Yesterday, the Welsh Government proposed new legislation to abolish the programme altogether. 

Between 1996 and 2016, more than 1,600 council houses were sold in Flintshire – many ending up in the private rented sector – and new figures have now revealed a further 10,631 homes have been lost in Wrexham (6,069) and Denbighshire (4,562*).

Clwyd South AM Ken Skates (pictured), who obtained the figures, said: “Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy policy has resulted in a huge reduction in social housing stock, with research showing that many end up in the private rented sector and costing local people more. I am proud that the Welsh Government is moving to protect social housing in Clwyd South.

“This damaging policy has depleted our housing stock and forced many vulnerable people to either wait much longer for a home or pay more to private landlords.

“I was pleased when the Welsh Government suspended the programme in Flintshire and I know Denbighshire County Council has also applied to suspend it to help deal with the pressure their social housing stock is facing and to ensure that homes are available to the people who need them most.

“To address the issue long term, we have now proposed legislation to abolish Right to Buy to support the Welsh Government’s aim of a more prosperous and fairer Wales.”

Right to Buy, introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government in 1980, allows social housing tenants across the UK to buy their council or housing association property at a discount. If passed, the new Welsh Government legislation will end these rights, protecting social housing stock throughout Wales being further depleted.

Ahead of the Bill’s introduction, Communities Secretary Carl Sargeant said sales under the scheme is equivalent to 45% of the country’s social housing stock in 1981.

Between 1981 and 2014, 138,709 UK council homes were sold – a 45% reduction in the social housing available since the policy was introduced (via www.deeside.com: http://www.deeside.com/government-allows-flintshire-county-council-suspend-right-buy-scheme-5-years/)

 “Right to Buy suspended in Flintshire” (22/02/17): http://gov.wales/newsroom/housing-and-regeneration/2017/170222-right-to-buy-suspended-in-flintshire/?lang=en

 “Right to buy abolition in Wales moves ahead” (13/03/17): (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-39234618)

*The Denbighshire figures includes pre-1981 sales, which it is believed were a scheme for council employees. The Denbighshire data from 1981-1996 only includes Rhuddlan Borough, as Glyndwr data has been lost (although this is estimated to be over 1,500). Total sales for this period are 2,152 (plus the estimated 1,500). Since Denbighshire Council was formed in 1996, a further 910 properties have been sold, including nine since a bid to suspend the scheme was submitted in August.

Railway steams back in time to Victorian days

Llangollen Railway will be stepping back in time to the Victorian era over the weekend of May 13 and 14.

Visitors can experience life as it was over 100 years ago, with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the recreated era.


* Lighting the fire at Berwyn Station.


Victorian characters will give you a fascinating insight into different aspects of life back then on and off the rails. They can:
  • Step on board one of our historic steam-hauled trains and journey 10 miles through the picturesque Dee Valley to the town of Corwen.
  •  Take a look inside our Victorian station at Berwyn and discover what life was like for a Victorian stationmaster.
  •  Learn new skills in the tented circus workshop and witness displays by costumed street entertainers.
  • Meet "Snowdrop" the mechanical elephant - and even have a ride!
  • Marvel at the sight of Queen Victoria and her royal entourage visiting the Dee Valley.
  •  Witness traditional railway sights as parcels and goods are loaded and unloaded along the line.
  • Explore original documents and artefacts charting the construction of our railway back in the 1860s.

Whilst it is not essential, the railway invites visitors to enter into the spirit of the occasion by wearing suitable Victorian attire.

For intrepid Victorian explorers, walking down the ramp to Llangollen station marks the start of the time-travelling adventure.

The lengthy station platforms recall the times when heavily packed excursion trains arrived at Llangollen from all over Britain from the mid-1860s right the way through until the mid-1960s.

In the Henry Robertson Suite, visitors can explore original documents and artefacts charting the construction of our railway back in the 1860s.

They can also step behind the scenes on a guided tour of the railway's workshops and see how steam locomotives are repaired and maintained.

In the Station CafĂ© & Bar there will be a range of hot and cold meals, with all products being freshly baked on the premises.

For the next stage of the trip back in time, you can climb on board one of our historic steam-hauled passenger trains for the 20-mile round trip.

Berwyn station, known as the 'Station in the Gorge', has been transformed back to how it would have appeared in 1897.

Break your journey here and discover what life was like for a Victorian stationmaster. 

Pop into the station's cosy refreshment room, where you'll find traditional light snacks and drinks.

School parties and groups can download a detailed education pack.

Working in partnership with the Llangollen Railway, the New Dot Cinema volunteers in Llangollen are screening a series of railway films on the Friday before the Victorian Weekend. These will be:
  • Phantom Ride through Llangollen. Approx 2 minutes of original footage from the late 1800's, featuring the Llangollen line, filmed from the very front of a train.
  • Elizabethan Express (1954, 20 mins) An entertaining documentary by British Transport Films that follows The Elizabethan, a non-stop British Railways service from London to Edinburgh along the East Coast Main Line.
  • The General (1926, 67 mins) Buster Keaton writes and stars in this fantastic silent film set in 1860's America. An action-adventure-comedy now rated as one of the greatest American films ever made. Buster's character is a train engineer on the Western and Atlantic Railroad. The film was inspired by the Great Locomotive Chase, a true story of an event that occurred during the American Civil War.
The venue will be upstairs at Llangollen Town Hall in Castle Street, with the doors opening at 7.30pm. The show starts at 8pm with licenced bar and refreshments available. Tickets will be available online a month in advance and also, on the door.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Commissioner looks at Portuguese policy on drugs


* Fact finding: Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.

A police boss says the way drug use is treated as a health issue rather a criminal matter in Portugal could also be the way forward in this country.  

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has just been on an "inspirational" fact-finding trip to Lisbon where he met the leaders of a number of drug agencies and went out on the streets to speak to addicts.

One of the things he saw was how instead of being put through the criminal justice system the majority of drug users are offered health advice on kicking the habit and also given a sanction which can lead to a small fine if breached.   

Mr Jones, a former police inspector, spent four days filming in the Portuguese capital with a TV crew from the BBC Wales current affairs programme Week In Week Out with the costs of the trip being met by the BBC.

And what he learned can be seen in tomorrow (Tuesday, March 14) night’s episode, entitled Cop-out on Drugs, to be screened at 10.40pm on BBC1 Wales.

Mr Jones caused controversy soon after his election as commissioner last year when he called for the decriminalisation of all drugs to be considered.

He argued that if they were legalised it would take drugs out of the control of criminals and allow addicts to have more support.

Describing his “inspirational” trip to Portugal, he said: “We spent four days filming out there and I very much took the lead in doing the interviews.

“My involvement was really a direct result of the problems being experienced by people in the Rhosddu area of Wrexham where drug users’ needles are being found on the streets.

“I first met Brendan Hughes from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction to get his views and then went out onto the streets of a district called Lumiar in Lisbon with a third sector, or voluntary, organisation which distributes clean equipment to problematic drug users and also does some counselling work with them.

“We also accompanied officers of the Portuguese equivalent of our National Crime Agency to a waste incinerator and watched the destruction of three tons of controlled drugs.

“Drugs are still unlawful in Portugal but this showed that decriminalisation doesn’t mean legalisation and that a lot of police resources are being targeted at supply rather than use.

“We then looked at how drug users are actually dealt with. If a police officer stops someone in the street who has cannabis on them if they have less than 10 days’ supply they are referred to what’s called a dissuasion commission which will then decide how to deal with them.

“If they are identified as a non-problematical or recreational user, as is mostly the case with cannabis and with 90 per cent of drug users in most countries, they give them information on the dangers of taking drugs and also a suspended sanction which means no action is taken against them.

“If they come back before the commission they might get a small fine which is basically the same as a speeding fine. It’s not a judicial but an administrative matter and they don’t get a criminal record.

“The five or 10 per cent who are problematical drug users get some sort of therapeutic support.

“We also spoke to Joao Goulao, the doctor who has been the driving force behind this policy and is now in charge of Portugal’s Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviour and Dependency, known as SICAD.”
  
The commissioner added: “Another visit was made to a detoxification centre called Centro Taipas in one of Lisbon’s main hospitals and I interviewed a young lady who was an addict and asked how she got that way.

“One of the things which impressed me most was a visit I made to a non-government third sector organisation which calls 365 days a year on the 1,200 people in Lisbon who are methadone users.

“It has two vehicles which visit five locations twice a day dispensing heroine substitute. They have a doctor and nurse with them who hand out other prescriptions they might need for blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis.

“Generally, it’s all very joined up and the main difference with us is that it’s a health rather than a criminal approach to drugs.

“They see addiction as a disease not a crime and that is the main message for me from my visit.

“There are far more important things the police can be dealing with.

“I liked what I saw and I think it’s the way forward if the political will is there to change things around.

“It was definitely a very interesting visit and I was inspired by what I saw, although I’m equally inspired by the commitment people here show in dealing with drugs problems.”       
    
Gareth Jones, producer of Week In Week Out, said: “We put the commissioner's views to the test and I think it should make fascinating viewing, particularly in Wrexham where people are talking about drug users and needles on the streets. It’s very timely.”

* You can find out more by watching Week in Week Out, Cop-out on Drugs, at 10.40pm on BBC1 Wales, on Tuesday, March 14.