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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Festival brings out the crowds

Hundreds of people thronged the town centre today for the annual Christmas Festival.

llanblogger brings you the following pictures kindly supplied by Linda and Phil Thane.

Return to Forbidden Planet is rocket-powered hit

A rockin’ spaceship crew gave a toe-tapping audience a tuneful trip from Llangollen to another galaxy last night.

The newly-formed Llangollen Musical Theatre Group is currently staging its version of jukebox musical Return to the Forbidden Planet at the International Pavilion.
And the Friday night performance was a pretty rocket-propelled affair.

The plot of the piece is about as thin as the atmosphere on Mars and hinges on the spacecraft SS Albatross being unexpectedly marooned by a storm of asteroids on the planet Dillyria.
There the crew meets up with mad scientist Doctor Prospero and his pretty young daughter Miranda for whose affections there is intense competition between the Albatross’s upstanding skipper, Captain Tempest, and resident chef, Cookie.

… I think.

Still, the plot hardly matters as the funky spaceship is just a vehicle for presenting a whole solar system of amazing tunes.
There are over 30 of them, ranging from the deeply soulful It’s a Man’s World to the poppy Teenager in Love and from the plaintive Go Now to the iconic rocker Great Balls of Fire.

Every one of them was a stonking hit and you could see the 10-strong cast were having as much fun belting them out as the audience was in hearing them.
Of course, they couldn’t have managed it without the services of an excellent nine-strong band equipped with everything from keyboards to saxophones.

Every one of the cast put their heart and soul into their parts and the profusion of musical numbers.
Justine Bradley made a sassy Gloria, the spaceship’s science officer, while Nico Decourt was a  loveable robot named Ariel.

Cookie the cook was powerfully portrayed Stuart Dillon and wasn’t fazed at all when his electric guitar failed to fire up at one point in the action.
He simply busked it by singing the rest of the segment and there was nice touch right at the end of the show when he was allowed to do it all again, this time with a fully serviceable instrument.

Geth Foulkes made a splendid Captain Tempest who sucks on a pipe – luckily minus tobacco - throughout the production to help create the right commanding presence.
Lucas Howson played Bosun Arras to perfection and one of the most powerful voices in the show came from consummate rocker Bill Hughes.

Jo Potts made a great Miranda who goes from plain little girl to high-heeled vamp in an Act Two costume and character transformation.
Linking the action and providing some powerful musical back-up were Jillian Handley and Leonie Kirby as the Damage Control Crew members and Tracey Rawlinson as the Navigation Officer.

Return to the Forbidden Planet was a credit to director Paul Brown, musical director Nigel James and producer Katherine Brown.
Sets – especially the electronic bits – were brilliantly masterminded by a team headed by Josie Ashcroft, who also had a creative hand in the eye-catching costumes.

The show’s on again tonight (Saturday, November 30) and I understand there may be a few tickets left.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Chain Bridge tenders go out for early 2014 start

* Tenders have now gone out for restoration work on the Chain Bridge.

Llangollen councillors have been introduced to the two new officers who will help drive forward the project to revive the Chain Bridge.

This summer it was announced that the long-awaited £465,000 restoration of the famous bridge, which has been closed for safety reasons for the past 30 years or so, could go ahead after the final slice of necessary cash came in the form of a £350,000 boost from the Heritage Lottery.
At the Town Council meeting on Tuesday, councillors met Sam Jones, who will be project co-ordinator, and Laura Black, who will be heritage officer.

Both said they were now working to spread the word of the project to local voluntary groups and businesses and, hopefully, to get as many people involved as possible.
They added that the project now had its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Town clerk Gareth Thomas told members that tenders for the work had recently gone out to six likely contractors and bids were due to be received just before Christmas.

He said it was hoped that the contract would be let in January, with work on the bridge possibly starting the following month and being finished in May or June next year.
There will then be an official re-opening event later in the year.

Mr Thomas added: “Hopefully, we will get a favourable tender and be able to get the right team to work on this important project.”    
He explained that an issue had been identified with the water supply to the nearby Chainbridge Hotel being carried over the River Dee on the bridge but said talks would be held with its owner Seamus O’Keeffe to ensure the supply is maintained.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fears over future of Plas Madoc leisure centre

The Leader is reporting today on fears that Plas Madoc leisure centre, which is used by people from Llangollen, may be earmarked for closure due to cuts at Wrexham Council.

See the full story at:

Skates backs community hub plan

A plan to use the building in Bridge Street as a community hub if the HSBC bank moves out next year has won the backing of Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates.

And he says he will put the idea to bank chiefs when he meets them next week to discuss their proposal to axe the branch next February.

The community hub scheme is the brainchild of local man Mike Edwards who was a member of the team which led the successful bid for Llangollen to win Cittaslow – slow town – status earlier this year.

Mr Edwards says if HSBC is determined to press ahead with the closure against the wishes of local campaigners, the bank building could be acquired on behalf of the people of Llangollen as a community facility housing small businesses, meeting rooms and a café.

Asked by llanblogger for his views on the idea, Mr Skates said: "I'm very pleased Mike is putting together a business case for using the building as a community facility and I will be putting this suggestion direct to HSBC when I meet bank officials next week on December 5.

"If they don't reverse their decision it is vital that Llangollen is not left with a vacant building or something that fails to add value to the town's economy and community well-being."

Explaining his idea, Mr Edwards said: “If the branch does close, the Welsh Government should demand that HSBC provides the building to the community on a medium term lease at a peppercorn rent.

“Cittaslow Llangollen could then investigate the condition of the property and put together a business plan to convert the building into a business and community support hub.

“This might have, say, a cafe on the ground floor with business space and serviced meeting rooms on the upper floors which could be let out to generate additional income.

“That way it's a project which would be self-funding in the long term because it would be generating income not merely soaking up money.

“There may also be space for a residential unit to be used be a caretaker-type individual who would be responsible for providing day to day support for the hub users.

“Some of the accommodation could be available for the use of local clubs and organisations to meet etc.”

Mr Edwards sees the Llangollen community hub being modelled on a similar scheme now successfully at Glyn in Chirk and housed in the former estate office overlooking Chirk Aqueduct.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

KLS plans biggest Buy Local Day of the year

Campaigners in Llangollen are planning to stage the biggest Buy Local Day of the year early next month.

Keep Llangollen Special (KLS), which was set up to support businesses in the town in the face of what they see as a major threat from the planned Sainsbury’s supermarket, organises the Buy Local days at regular intervals throughout the year.
And it has now decided to hold the pre-Christmas event on Saturday, November 7, to tie in with Small Business Saturday.
As revealed by llanblogger yesterday, this is a concept which came originally from the USA, where it has helped increase spending in small businesses and bring in more long-term customers by creating a buzz on the high street.

It also helped small businesses network with each other, championed their role in local communities and highlighted the role of entrepreneurship.

The idea is being promoted locally by both Clwyd South’s MP, Susan Elan Jones, and Assembly Member, Ken Skates.     

Susan Elan Jones MP (pictured left promoting the idea) said: “Small businesses are important everywhere, but they are especially vital in an area like ours which contains so many villages and small towns. We need to give all the support we can to small businesses so that they do not go under in times of economic downturn.”

KLS was to have held its Christmas Buy Local Day on December 13 but after learning of the Small Business Saturday idea from the llanblogger story, members have now decided to stage the event on December 7, which, according to chairman Martin Crumpton, will “make a big day even bigger!”

He said: “We have also contacted the three banks in Llangollen to ask them to open their branches for the day.
“Many people will take advantage of Buy Local and the opportunity to buy for Christmas. We have local produce in town that’s second to none; what a treat for friends and relatives!
“We’ll do everything we can to make it the best trading day of this year’s calendar and call on everyone, from individual traders to the Town Council to get the Christmas decorations to the very highest standard to showcase what a wonderful, vibrant town centre we have.”

Mr Crumpton added: “Meanwhile, please remember we need evidence to present to HSBC where their closure will cause hardship to people who need to see human beings for their banking.
“Perhaps the regional managers at HSBC will get a nice visit from Father Christmas if they’ll let us negotiate with them?”

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Over 1,000 caught using phones while driving

Photograph of the mobile phone poster

More than 1,000 motorists were caught using their mobile phones while at the wheel during the 2013 All-Wales Anti-Mobile Phone While Driving Campaign last month.
The two-week campaign, involving road safety partners across the principality, aimed to raise awareness among motorists about the real dangers involved when drivers break the law through phoning or texting at the wheel.
Officers from all four Welsh police forces carried out proactive patrols to target motorists who endanger other road users through this behaviour and educated drivers on the penalties they face if caught.
During the campaign, officers detected a total of 1,095 mobile phone driving offences.
North Wales Police issued 95 fixed penalty notices while in the Gwent area a total of 47 notices were issued to law-breakers.
In the Dyfed Powys force area 862 notices were given, while in South Wales 91 offenders were caught and apprehended.
Chief Inspector Darren Wareing from North Wales Police’ Roads Policing Unit said: “Despite the law change in February 2007 where using a mobile phone while driving can result in three penalty points and a further increase to a £100 fine back in August this year, drivers in Wales are still persisting with this dangerous activity and breaking the law.
“This campaign is just one part of our continuing effort to target and reduce the number of drivers who risk becoming involved in a serious or fatal collision due to using a mobile phone while driving.
"Along with drink driving, speeding, not wearing a seatbelt and driving carelessly, using a mobile phone behind the wheel, whether it be texting, using an app, or making a phone call is classed as one of the Fatal 5; the five most common causes of fatal road traffic collisions.
"Even the most experienced or competent of drivers can easily be distracted. A momentary lapse in concentration can have serious consequences and it is disappointing that 95 motorists in North Wales have broken the law and put their own lives and the lives of others at risk."
He added: "We all need to take account of how we drive on our roads and driving a vehicle requires us to multi-task so anything above and beyond that needs to wait until we are safely parked up or until our journey has finished.”

Politicians back small business day

* Susan Elan Jones MP backs Small Business Saturday.

Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones and AM Ken Skates have given their backing to Small Business Saturday, which this year will be held on Saturday, December 7.

The idea originally comes from the USA. It helped increase spending in small businesses and a rise in long-term customers, and created a buzz on the high street.

It also helped small businesses network with each other, championed their role in local communities and highlighted the role of entrepreneurship.

Susan Elan Jones MP said: “Small businesses are important everywhere, but they are especially vital in an area like ours which contains so many villages and small towns. We need to give all the support we can to small businesses so that they do not go under in times of economic downturn.

"Small and medium-sized local businesses have a loyalty to their customers and their home area in a way that global multi-nationals do not. They must be supported.”

Ken Skates AM commented: “Small businesses form the backbone of our economy and deserve to be supported. Small Business Saturday is a great way for people to show their support.”

Monday, November 25, 2013

Extra cash will allow people to access advice services

Wales's Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister Jeff Cuthbert has announced a series of grants  that will allow almost 7,000 extra people to access free advice services.

This follows an invitation in May for organisations providing free and independent information and advice to apply for Welsh Government funding in 2013-14.
Along with the invitation was a request for organisations to adapt to a situation where funding to support their services is being drastically cut but the demand for their services is growing due to cuts to welfare benefits and the struggling economy.
Eight organisations will share a total of £936,330 and through their services will provide valuable advice on debt, housing and welfare benefit advice to approximately 6,376 people.

The eight agencies are: Advice UK (£173,743), Age Cymru Partnership (£13,153), Citizens Advice Cymru (£484,086), Law Centres Network (£32,025), RNIB (£20,988), Shelter Cymru (£79,158), SNAP Cymru (£90,710) and the Welsh Refugee Council (£42,467).

Jeff Cuthbert said: “This announcement is another example of our commitment to taking action to provide practical help to people living in, or at risk of falling into, poverty.

“Free advice services are more important than ever given the current economic climate and the impact welfare changes are having on whole communities. Thousands of people rely on specialist, expert advice, but funding is being squeezed at the very time when more people are turning to them for help. Many of these advice services are facing direct cuts to their funding.

“I want to make sure people do not fall through the cracks given the changes to the UK welfare system and am delighted to be announcing these grants.”

An additional £103,950 is being granted to three organisations to provide specialist discrimination advice to around 347 clients.

The three beneficiaries are: Race Equalities First (£25,073), Citizens Advice Cymru (£69,506) and the Royal Association for Deaf People’s Deaf Law Centre (£9,371).

The Minster added: “Ensuring everyone in Wales is treated fairly is fundamental to my vision for a country that embraces equality and diversity and that we can all be proud to live in. These grants will ensure that people who believe they have experienced discrimination can receive professional advice.”

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Community hub plan floated for bank building

* Community hub plan: the HSBC bank building in Bridge Street.
If Llangollen’s HSBC bank closes early next year the building it occupies could be used as a community hub housing small businesses, meeting rooms and a café.

The ambitious plan is the brainchild of local man Mike Edwards who was a member of the team which led the bid for Llangollen to win Cittaslow – slow town – status earlier this year.

Mr Edwards (pictured below) says if HSBC is determined to press ahead with the closure against the wishes of local campaigners, the imposing building in Bridge Street could be acquired on behalf of the people of Llangollen as a community facility.

He explained: “If the branch does close, the Welsh Government should demand that HSBC provides the building to the community on a medium term lease at a peppercorn rent.

“Cittaslow Llangollen could then investigate the condition of the property and put together a business plan to convert the building into a business and community support hub.

“This might have, say, a cafe on the ground floor with business space and serviced meeting rooms on the upper floors which could be let out to generate additional income.

“That way it's a project which would be self-funding in the long term because it would be generating income not merely soaking up money.

“There may also be space for a residential unit to be used be a caretaker-type individual who would be responsible for providing day to day support for the hub users.

“Some of the accommodation could be available for the use of local clubs and organisations to meet etc.”

Mr Edwards added: “The hub could be equipped with ITC - internet, printing, photocopying etc - which local independent businesses could use and, if they wanted to meet customers, suppliers or similar, they could use the meeting rooms with full support normally available to larger business who have extensive resources.

“Armed with a convincing business plan we could convince funders, such as the Welsh Government and the Lottery, to back the refurbishment and conversion of the building.”

Mr Edwards says the Llangollen hub could be based on the successful model of Glyn Wylfa Ltd, which is housed in the former estate office overlooking Chirk Aqueduct.

It has been established as a social enterprise and development trust by a committed team of local residents with complementary business and social community skills.

The refurbished building includes a variety of high quality office accommodation, a meeting room for up to 20 delegates plus a café. It also offers an arts and crafts market place at weekends.

* Gill Thomas from the Chamber of Trade and Tourism has sent the following note to llanblogger:

"Just wanted to clarify the situation re customers of HSBC using the post office. This option is only open to personal account holders. Business, Charity and Community account holders will have to travel to Chirk, Ruabon or Wrexham. This is why this decision is so devastating for us and means we will probably have to move to one of the remaining banks in town."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

KLS issues latest statement on bank closure issue

Keep Llangollen Special has issued its latest statement on the proposed closure of the HSBC bank in Llangollen, which we bring you here:
“In a BBC News article on Friday, RBS (NatWest) are quoted as saying, “Since 2010, branch transactions are down almost 30%”.  We know what that means.
“Also, from Barclays just recently when 1,700 job cuts were announced, one quote stood out:  “Mr Blakey [editor of Retail Banker International] thinks banks need to "right size" their branches, because they are not needed as much with the advent of mobile and internet banking.
“We’ve been urged to leave HSBC, but how can you jump ships when there are no ships left to jump to?
Now is probably a highly counter-productive time to take precipitous action like switching accounts from HSBC as it might harden HSBC’s attitude further.
“We have written to Alan Keir of HSBC to help smooth-over ruffled feathers, at least while negotiations continue. It has been acknowledged.
“Despite the flat refusal by HSBC to meet with the Chamber of Trade, Mark Isherwood has persuaded them to have a meeting in Cardiff,  accompanied by Ken Skates AM.
“It is not an event to which others are invited, regrettably, so we need to furnish them with as much ammunition as we possibly can.  
“We have been asked by Mark Isherwood’s office to provide details of any individual cases we would like him to take to the meeting.
“We now know what to do; it’s all hands on deck to canvas for cases from businesses and residents about how the branch closure would cause hardship to them.
“I’m quite certain the Chamber of Trade and KLS can compile all your comments and present them in a coherent and concise form.
* As a for instance, some of us may feel that their accounts would not be transferrable to a new bank due to problems with debt and still need a local manager to help them because of their relationship with someone who understands their circumstance rather than a stranger who might be less sympathetic.
* It might be because of anxiety and the need for personal  understanding and sympathetic contact.
* It might due to physical impairment or that the cost of transport is unaffordable to them.
Perhaps you have no telephone, which implies you have no Internet access either.
Impaired vision, partial hearing and physical immobility  are obviously problems, and if you have carers provided by social services you may not be willing to entrust your bank account details with.
* If you’re a trader in town and have concerns such as openly carrying sums of cash to bank, even road safety  worries crossing the A5 to the Post Office or delays introduced by third parties slowing its transfer to your account, let us know.
“Please be a good neighbour – if you know anyone who would be unable to read this, please let them know.
“We need your name and address. It will be kept confidential. Hand-written letters, which we encourage, may be given to Watkin & Williams who have kindly offered to be a collection point. (Mark the envelope HSBC, please.)
"Whatever the reason, please contact , or the Llangollen Chamber of Trade and Tourism  at
“What we need to tell our leaders is that this is no longer a local issue. It’s turned UK-wide. Our local and national economies are going to plummet if we can’t find a solution.
“Next week, documents will be sent to all AMs. Watch this space.”
Martin Crumpton, 
Keep Llangollen Special.

Railway gets two new engineering apprentices

* New apprentices Luke Denoven, left, and Harry Jones.

Llangollen Railway has two new apprentices on its books following a recruitment scheme in association with Coleg Cambria in Wrexham.

The offer of two engineering apprenticeships produced applications for the posts from students undertaking the mechanical engineering course at Coleg Cambria.

Five students were called for interview and two have been selected.

After completing a two-week ‘no commitment’ trial period at the railway’s workshop in Llangollen,
the two successful candidates have now begun a four year engineering skills programme.

This provides for part time day release to continue their studies at Coleg Cambria whilst gaining experience in the maintenance, restoration and building of locomotives at the heritage railway.

Dave Owen, Head of Engineering at Llangollen Railway, said: “Llangollen Railway is pleased to be able to offer two engineering apprentice positions this year.

"Since 2001 we have provided 12 apprenticeships to aspiring engineers and, whilst some have moved on to positions elsewhere in the railway industry, others have stayed with us as long term employees.
They are now experienced engineers who have played a major part in the challenging locomotive restoration projects we have completed in recent years.

“Our two new apprentices will receive an apprenticeship in traditional engineering, in conjunction with day release to an engineering course at Coleg Cambria. They will be involved in work on the three exciting schemes being undertaken here to build new examples of steam locomotives with the
Betton Grange, Patriot and Night Owl projects.

“If the railway heritage business is to continue to prosper, it is essential we have young engineers joining the ranks of the Llangollen Railway work force, skilled in traditional methods which allow steam locomotives to be maintained and restored.”

The two successful engineering apprentices are both from Wrexham.

Luke Denoven, aged 19, a former pupil at St Joseph’s High School, studied Mechanical Engineering at Coleg Cambria, said: “I am really thrilled to have got the apprenticeship at Llangollen Railway and look forward to a career in engineering.”

Harry Jones, aged 17, a former pupil at Rhosnesni High School, has also studied Mechanical Engineering at Coleg Cambria, said: “ I look forward to gaining practical hands-on experience in a real industry with good career prospects.”

During their first week at Llangollen Railway both have helped with the preparation of the LMS ‘Patriot’ locomotive project which is due to go on show at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham during the Warley Model Railway Show to be held November 23/24.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Councillor urges people to move their business away from HSBC

A Llangollen county councillor has taken his business away from HSBC in protest at the bank's decision to close its branch in the town.

Stuart Davies, who was at yesterday's protest outside the bank in Bridge Street, has just written to senior bank bosses to complain about their "intransigence", through its regional manager Rachel Thomas, in refusing to discuss the closure, due in February next year, with local representatives such as himself.

Cllr Davies (pictured right) tells them he has already transferred his savings to a rival bank and has urged other local people to do the same.

In an email to HSBC, Cllr Davies says he was elected on his promise to help safeguard jobs and generate more and suggests the closure of a major bank branch in Llangollen does nothing to help that pledge.

He says: "I urge fellow politicians to join him in putting pressure on the higher ups in HSBC to reverse the decision.
"I also call on the public to vote with their feet.

"Today I initiated the process of transferring all my savings and accounts to Barclays from HSBC, a process made easier by the recent changes to help make transfers easier.

"By doing this, not only do we make our point to HSBC, we actually help to strengthen the remaining banks in Llangollen by increasing their business.

"Perhaps when HSBC senior managers see the amount of savings flowing out of their coffers to their rivals then market forces might start to apply to them."

One of the recipents of Cllr Davies's message is HSBC chief executive officer lan Keir from whom he requests the "courtesy of a reply".

KLS asks bankers' group for statement on HSBC closure

The chairman of Keep Llangollen Special (KLS) has fired the latest salvo in the battle to save the town's HSBC bank.

He has written to a bankers' organisation seeking its views on HSBC's refusal to discuss the axing of the Bridge Street branch next February.

Led by officials of Llangolen Chamber of Trade and Tourism, a group of around 25 protesters gathered outside the bank to demonstrate against the closure.

Now, Martin Crumpton, who chairs KLS, has referred the matter to the British Bankers' Association, the UK’s leading association for the banking and financial services sector, representing the interests of more than 240 member organisations with a worldwide presence in 180 countries.

In his email, he says: "I seek a Statement from the BBA, on behalf of my Community Group and many other interested parties, regarding the intractable refusal of HSBC to negotiate their programme of withdrawing branch services from rural communities in Wales, a matter raised in the Welsh Assembly this week due to its widespread detrimental effect on small communities.
"This programme, which we see mirrored by announcements of cuts by other major banks, is widely regarded as a cynical manoeuvre to cuts costs and increase profits, perhaps in response to threats of caps and levies by the Labour Party.
"That HSBC, to be followed by the other banks, previously known as the high street banks, is offloading customers onto the Post Office and the Internet is indisputable, whether by intent or not. That HSBC, a profitable business, will increase its profits by branch closures is also indisputable. We believe that the BBA shares a responsibility along with HSBC and other banks to act in a socially-responsible manner, and a Statement from you is eagerly anticipated."

AM welcomes launch of new local business

* Ken Skates AM with Dawn Roberts and Del Roberts-Jones.

ASSEMBLY Member Ken Skates has welcomed the launch of a new business which will provide employment opportunities for young people with autism. 

Clwyd South AM Mr Skates recently met Dawn Roberts and Del Roberts-Jones, whose Llangollen-based firm Brythonium produces novel family legacy cards. 
Both Dawn and Del are former Wrexham County Borough Council economic development employees who led the successful bid for World Heritage Site status for the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal. 
Now the pair have turned their attention to a new business project which they have financed themselves. 
Dawn said: “As mother of a young woman with autism, I saw no hope for her adulthood and wanted to try to provide meaningful employment for Elinor and as many of her peers as possible. Del and I have started a new business purely with the intention of providing sheltered employment for young people with autism and learning difficulties in the Dee Valley area. 
Dawn said the cards are designed to allow everyone to write down their precious memories and family stories and history.
She added: “They are a personal way of creating a family legacy as they are handwritten, with no need for complicated research or computers.” 
Mr Skates described the new business – which launched its own website this week – is "an amazing concept". 
He added: “I loved this idea as soon as I met Dawn and Del. They both come from Llangollen and some of the cards depict fantastic images from the Dee Valley area, so it is certainly a business with a very local flavour. 
They have also identified a lack of employment opportunities for young people with autism and have incorporated that within their business model, which makes a wonderful idea even better. I wish them both every success with their innovative project.”

Llan-built steam engine reaches the Midlands

A story on the ITV news website describes how the Unknown Warrior, the steam loco being built in the workshops at Llangollen Railway in time to mark the centenary of the end of World War One in 2018, recently arrived at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire to be blessed.

llanblogger reported earlier this week how the engine began its road journey to the Midlands by being lifted into place aboard a lorry by a huge crane.

After a brief stay in Staffordshire the loco's next stop is the National Exhibition centre in Birmingham where it will be on display at the Warley Model Railway Show this weekend.

See the ITV story at

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Town crier's bell tolls to signal "save our bank" protest

* Chamber of Trade and Tourism chairman David Davies before
heading inside the bank with the 150th anniversary card.

* Town crier Austin Chemenais tolls his bell to start the protest.

PROTESTERS gathered outside the HSBC bank in Llangollen earlier today (Thursday) to show their anger at the branch being axed as part of a regional closure programme.
On the stroke of noon, town crier Austin Chemenais tolled his bell to draw attention to the demonstration in Bridge Street which was timed to coincide with a celebration of the 150th anniversary of banking in the town going on inside.

The protest was organised by members of Llangollen Chamber of Trade and Tourism whose chairman, David Davies, went into the branch with a large card marking the anniversary and expressing local hopes that it would stay open for another 150 years.
Mr Davies emerged shortly afterwards to say that a senior manager from HSBC in Wrexham had politely accepted the card but had refused to come outside to speak to the protest group who were being filmed by press photographers and TV crews.

“We’ll now wait to see what happens as a result of our protest,” said Mr Davies.    
“We had sought a meeting to discuss the closure of the branch with the HSBC’s regional manager but she has turned us down.

“We don’t want this very valuable branch to close but we would like to at least discuss other possibilities such as it remaining open a couple of days a week.”
Llangollen is one of three HSBC branches earmarked for closure next February, along with those in Conwy and Beaumaris, as a result of a claimed fall in trade due to more customers doing business online.

Bank bosses say the administration of accounts will be transferred from Llangollen to Wrexham with five staff being deployed elsewhere within the group.
There has been cross-party condemnation of the closures from local politicians and the issue was raised in the Welsh Assembly earlier this week.

Responding to one North Wales AM who questioned the closures, HSBC regional director for the south west and Wales, Rachel Thomas, said: “Whilst we fully understand the depth of feeling about our decision to close this branch, the decision is final.

“We therefore believe that our time is best spent providing tailored one to one support to our Llangollen customers who may have problems accessing banking facilities and ensuring that their needs are catered for in the best way possible.”

Clwyd South AM Ken Skates said: “The turn-out today just goes to show the strength of feeling over this issue in Llangollen, and we can only hope HSBC takes note.
"I am in the process of trying to arrange a meeting with the regional director so we can sit down and see if there is anything that can be done to keep HSBC services in the town or to see if the building can be put to community use should the company follow through on its plans.
“I am only too aware how angry and upset people are about this, and HSBC’s arrogance and refusal to engage with the community certainly hasn’t helped matters.
"With the closures of branches in Cefn Mawr, Rhos and Corwen in recent years the bank appears to be turning its back on the area, so they should not be surprised if some of their loyal customers in my constituency now decide to turn their backs on HSBC.”

Older People's Commissioner visits county HQ

Denbighshire councillors heard first hand about the work being carried out by the Older People's Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, visited County Hall, Ruthin, on Monday.

Ms Rochira (below right) talked about her role and her priorities for action to ensure the wellbeing of all older people and that policies are in place to reduce any barriers to leading a fulfilling life into old age.

She told members about some of her key aims, which include promoting awareness of the rights and interests of older people in Wales, challenging discrimination, encouraging best practice in the treatment of older people and reviewing on the law affecting the interests of older people.

During the discussion, councillors also heard about what Denbighshire is doing in response to the Commissioner's agenda for change.

Cabinet Lead Member for Social Care, Councillor Bobby Feeley, and Older People’s Champion for Denbighshire, said: "It is well documented that we have a high proportion of elderly people living in our County and that demographic change is a key factor in our planning for the future.

"This is why it is important that we have excellent links with the Commissioner and to ensure we are working closely with her to provide the best service we can to our older residents and embedding the wellbeing of older people at the heart of our public services across the board - not just within a social services context.

"We completely agree with her that some aspects of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill are not fully worked out yet- laudable though they are. In particular we are concerned that the Bill is not fully costed.

"It has been extremely useful to hear from the Commissioner and I'm sure all members will take away something from our meeting with the Commissioner."

Ms Rochira said: “It was a pleasure to meet with Denbighshire County Councillors in Ruthin.

“This meeting provided a good opportunity to speak to councillors about my priorities. These include the need to focus more strongly on key local and community-based facilities such as buses and community transport, public toilets, pavements and community centres.

“These are essential to the maintenance of older people’s health, independence and wellbeing. As we grow older as a nation, we need to fundamentally rethink how we design and plan our communities.”

Heavy steam loco thumbs a lift

* The heavy transport with locomotive on board ready to depart.
Following a heavy lift of component parts, the project to build a new example of the LMS 'Patriot' class of express steam locomotive took a major step forward in the yard at Llangollen railway on Wednesday afternoon, despite some difficult weather conditions.
Engineers undertook the complex task of lifting the main frames, with smokebox and cab attached, on to the three sets of main driving wheels and secured the assembly on a trailer in readiness for transport to Birmingham.

By 4.30pm the heavy load was on the road and heading for the West Midlands.
Initially the assembled parts will be displayed at the National Arboretum before heading on to the National Exhibition centre at Birmingham where it will be on display at the Warley Model Railway Show on Saturday/Sunday November 23/24.


Campaign launched to tackle disability hate crime

North Wales Police have teamed up with partners to launch a campaign to raise awareness of disability hate crime and encourage more victims to come forward and report matters to the police.
Copy of poster 
The bi-lingual poster campaign was launched Police Headquarters in Colwyn Bay.
North Wales Police and representatives from TAPE, Wired and ARRIVA came together to launch the initiative which will run as a pilot for two weeks.
An ARRIVA bus was present outside headquarters to mark the launch which was attended by Chief Superintendent Simon Humphreys and Greg George of North Wales Police, Winston Roddick, the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, and Wired – an organisation which supports people to live as independently and with as much choice and control as possible.
“We know that disability hate crime is under reported in North Wales and we hope that this campaign will go some way to raising awareness of the issue,” said Chief Superintendent Simon Humphreys. 
“It is important that victims of disability hate crime, as well as members of the public who believe they have witnessed such an incident, should report it to police.”
Greg George, Head of the Diversity Unit at NWP, said: “The Diversity Unit work closely with disabled people (and those who support them) to deal with the policing issues that affect them. It is from one of our regular meetings that the idea to run the campaign was born. A challenge was set for community members to devise a poster – scores of which will now be displayed on ARRIVA buses. The campaign has the full support of ARRIVA and the posters will be displayed on all buses travelling out of the Rhyl depot.”
Len Cater, General Manager, Arriva, Rhyl, said: “Arriva Buses Wales is proud to support the North Wales Police campaign to stop disability hate crime. It is important that any hate crime is reported, and we are pleased to be able to help publicise the issue on our buses in the area.”
The North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner commended the initiative and said: "This is an important campaign to inform people about disability hate crime.  It brings the Force and the community together to target offenders and tackle the problem.”
TAPE Community Music and Film have also written and produced a short video which looks at the issues of reducing stigma for people with a learning disability.
Steve Swindon, CEO, TAPE community Music and Film, said: “The development of the hate crime poster has stemmed directly from the work of the Stigma production team and their desire to make a difference to the lives of other people. They have worked with a consistent professionalism and real focus, using their own experiences to inform the work and ensure that the key message comes across clearly.
“We at TAPE are extremely proud to have been involved in supporting this project."
Adult Services Manager of the Wired group Susan Cassapi said: “Wired’s ethos is that all people are part of society and this campaign goes a long way to address the issue of hate crimes and bullying that some disabled people face every day. We are delighted to have been involved. 
“Wired feel that this poster campaign will make people think more about hate crimes.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Axed banks issue raised in Welsh Assembly

* Demo tomorrow: the HSBC bank in Bridge Street. 

Members of the Welsh Assembly are to be updated on the closure of three HSBC bank branches, including the one in Llangollen, according to a Cabinet Minister.
In the Senedd, North Wales Conservative AM Mark Isherwood called for a government statement on the issue, which has sparked anger in the town and will be the subject of a demonstration outside the Bridge Street bank tomorrow (Thursday) at 12 noon.
Addressing Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government and Government Business and AM for Wrexham, he said: "I wish to raise a matter that I know that you, personally, will be concerned about, namely the announcement by HSBC that it is closing its Llangollen, Conwy and Beaumaris branches.
"What engagement is the Welsh Government having, could have, or will have, with the bank regarding this?
"Widespread concerns have been raised by constituents, business constituents and individual customers regarding the impact this will have on those areas, on themselves, the wellbeing of the businesses in their towns, on their communities, but also on the many thousands of tourists who visit the area.
"They are afraid that rural areas are taking the brunt, that this is not in the interest of customers and that it is a short-sighted business decision. They believe that we need to take a longer term, truly customer-focused approach."
Ms Griffiths replied: "In relation to your concerns about the closure of HSBC branches - and you referred to Llangollen in my colleague Ken Skates’s constituency - the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport has discussions with all banks and will update the Assembly in due course."