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Friday, January 31, 2014

Woman taken to hospital after Horseshoe Pass accident

An elderly woman was taken to hospital following an accident on the Horseshoe Pass on Friday afternoon.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 12.01pm to reports of a single-vehicle road traffic collision on the A542 Horseshoe Pass.

“We sent an emergency ambulance to the scene, and a woman in her 80s was taken to Wrexham Maelor Hospital for a precautionary check up.”

Hip hop comes to Llan Eisteddfod

An international festival of music and dance is aiming for a younger audience with a new urban dance competition.
The urgent beat of hip hop will be mixing with the more traditional sounds of folk music and choral singing at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July.
The street dancers will join competitors from all over the world to perform on the same stage as artistes as diverse as opera superstar Bryn Terfel and rock legends Status Quo.
The closing date for entries from urban dance groups is March 7.
Musical director Eilir Owen Griffiths (pictured right) said: "Last year's event was a fantastic success of which I am very proud but the last thing we can afford to do is rest on our laurels.  If we are to maintain and improve our standards we must not be complacent.
"It is therefore always a good to look at what we do to see if there are any ways we can do things even better next year.
"It is vitally important that we remain true to the core traditions of the Eisteddfod and we will always keep the faith with our cultural heritage, after all that is our raison d'etre.
"By the same token we must also be aware that culture is a living, vibrant, evolving phenomenon and we must also attract and remain relevant to new audiences as well as continuing to provide a platform for more traditional music and dance.
"In recent years, the choral competitions have been enriched by the inclusion of barbershop and show choirs. It has been an extremely popular development.
"We are now introducing a similar experiment in the dance competitions at this year's Eisteddfod.
"At the suggestion of our dance judges, we will have a Hip Hop dance competition so that the contemporary urban dance tradition can be represented too.
"It is a highly popular and culturally important part of the dance scene so we think it makes sense to introduce a Hip Hop competition to assess how successful it is and whether is should be included in future festivals.
"We will of course be rigorous in ensuring that the Eisteddfod's high standards are maintained at all  times so there will be preliminary rounds to decide who is worthy of competing on the main stage.
"I think this is a really exciting development in the Eisteddfod's history and will help us reach out to a new audience while at the same time respecting our rich heritage."
we have been able to arrange, what will be the opening event of the 2014 festival.”
The curtain raiser for this year's Eisteddfod will mark the return of opera superstar Bryn Terfel to Llangollen.
The acclaimed bass baritone will be playing the lead in a special English-language production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street featuring an all-Welsh cast.
This year's will also feature concerts by Dutch jazz sensation Caro Emerald and veteran British rockers Status Quo as well as a world premiere of a new work, Adiemus Colores, by top composer Karl Jenkins.
He will conduct his Latin American themed work with American tenor Noah Stewart, Venezuelan trumpeter Pacho Flores and Latvian accordion player Ksenija Sidorova to the accompaniment of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod Orchestra.
The Friday night concert, Spirit of Unity, will feature the Cape Town Opera, Africa’s premiere opera company, famed for their "vibrant vocalism and high-octane stage performances".
Appearing with them will be Wales’ representative in Cardiff Singer of the World, Gary Griffiths, the Wales Millennium Centre Only Kidz Aloud Chorus under the baton of celebrity conductor Tim Rhys Evans and British Sinfonietta, one of the UK's leading independent professional orchestras.
The Choir of the World competition for the Pavarotti Trophy on the Saturday night is the blue riband event of the week-long festival which will close with a Sunday night concert by Status Quo. To book tickets and for more details about the urban dance competition go to the website at

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time to bin it to win it

Kingdom Security, working in conjunction with Denbighshire County Council, is offering people the chance for people to be entered into a regular prize draw to win a £50 high street voucher for anyone who is seen disposing of their litter responsibly or picking up after their dog.

If an environmental enforcement officer sees someone disposing of litter in a bin or picking up after their dog, they will be commended personally for their action and also given a postcard and asked to complete their details and send it in to the Council to be included in the monthly prize draw. The prize is funded by Kingdom and the Council is co-ordinating the draw and providing the administration and postcards.

Denbighshire contracted Kingdom to carry out environmental enforcement patrols across the county in October 2012 and since then, officers have issued 4,466 fixed penalty notices and their work has attracted widespread praise for cleaning up Denbighshire's streets, which is one of Denbighshire's Corporate Priorities.

Cabinet Lead Member for Environment, Councillor David Smith, said: "Issues of dog fouling and littering have repeatedly come out in our resident's survey as one of the main things that bothers people greatly and this is why we made 'clean and tidy streets' as one of our Corporate Priorities.

We contracted Kingdom Security to carry out environmental enforcement and have been running a widespread campaign since last February to educate people and change behaviour.

"We know the vast majority of people do dispose of litter properly and pick up after their dogs and we are seeing improvements across the county but we feel it is important that we also acknowledge those who do the right thing and ensure they are also recognised for their public spirit."
Steven Gillespie,  of the  Environmental Protection Division for Kingdom Security, said: “The Bin it to Win it scheme has been hugely successful in four other counties, so we thought we’d launch it here in Denbighshire. It allows Kingdom, in partnership with Denbighshire County Council, to demonstrate our commitment to acknowledging and rewarding members of the community who display environmental awareness.”

Operatic's Young 'Uns to stage Oliver! at Town Hall

For its 25th annual show Llangollen Operatic Society’s junior stage group, Young ‘Uns, will be presenting the musical Oliver! at the Town Hall from Thursday-Saturday, February 6-8.

More than 40 young performers, aged five to 18, are involved in the production, which features a host of evergreen songs such as Food Glorious Food, Where is Love? Who Will Buy?, Consider Yourself and Reviewing the Situation.

Based on the Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist, the show, with words and lyrics by Lionel Bart, is a tale of Victorian orphans, workhouses, crime and tragedy.

Some of the key players are Joanna Stallard, as Nancy, Beth Evans as Bet, Wilf Wort as the villainous Bill Sykes, Rhys Penge as Oliver, Charlie Hackforth as The Artful Dodger, Connor Phillips as Mr Bumble; Holly Broadbent as Widow Corney, Megan Howlett as Mrs Sowerberry and Will Edwards as Mr Sowerberry.

Guest starring from the adult operatic group is Christopher Sims as the scheming and charismatic Fagin.

The Young ‘Uns are delighted to welcome their new artistic director, Christine Dukes. Christine, who was artistic director of the Youth Theatre at the Stiwt in Rhos for 14 years, brings a wealth of skills and experience to her new role.

Musical director is Elen Mair Roberts and there is full orchestral support. Production co-ordinator is Deirdre Smith.

Shows are at 7.30pm on Thursday 6,  Friday 7 and Saturday 8, February, with a matinee on the Saturday at 2.30pm. 

Tickets are available from Llangollen Tourist Information Centre (01978  860828), Jades Hair and Beauty, Gwyn Davies, Butcher, or Stella Bond (01978  860441). Tickets cost £8 for adults and £5 for concessions.

County agrees new budget

Denbighshire's Full Council has approved the budget proposals which have identified savings of £8.5m.

The Draft Local Government Settlement indicates the Council needed to find in the region of £8.5m in savings for 2014/15.

The budget process to date, initially resulted in savings of £1.7m, which were approved by Members in September plus a further £4.7m, which again was approved in December. This latest phase, agreed by Cabinet earlier in the month identifies a further £2m in savings, which has now been ratified by Full Council.

Cabinet Lead Member for finance, Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill said: "Denbighshire really has had a tight budget settlement from the Welsh Assembly Government - the lowest in Wales for 2014/15.

"At all times we have attempted to protect frontline service and jobs whilst minimising the impact of council tax increases to our residents.

"We will continue to look at all services to see if we can be more efficient in the way in which we work, whilst maintaining the best possible services for the people of Denbighshire."

Councillors also agreed an increase in Band D Council tax of 3.5% for 2014/5.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ambulance response times come under fire

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, has criticised the Welsh Labour government’s handling of the ambulance service, after figures show that the 8 minute emergency target was significantly missed.
Only 57.6% of emergency responses to Category A ‘immediately life-threatening calls’ arrived within 8 minutes.  This is despite the Welsh Government’s target for 65% of these calls to be responded to within this time.  It is also a decrease in performance compared to the previous month when 63.2% of calls were responded to within 8 minutes.
Kirsty Williams AM said: “These shocking figures seriously undermine the Labour Health Minister’s assurances that response times are improving.
“The Minister may blame winter pressures, and it is true that there were a high number of emergency calls, but the fact remains that poor ambulance response times take place all year.
“Having 65% of life-threatening calls responded to within 8 minutes is not an ambitious target, yet the Welsh Labour government consistently fails to meet it.  The Minister needs to be looking at why, after one month of achievement in October, response times are once again on a downward spiral.
It’s a sad fact that the Welsh Labour government is failing patients across Wales.  Whether it is inadequate cancer care, poor ambulance response times or dire A&E waiting times, the Welsh Labour government is not offering a health service that patients in Wales deserve.”

Live comedy comes to Pavilion tomorrow

Live stand up comedy makes a welcome return to the Llangollen Pavilion this Friday evening.
Throughout 2014, Llangollen Comedy Club promises to bring some of the best talent from across the comedy circuit to the town's Pavilion.
The first show takes place this Friday, January 31.
Headlining the first show is Keith Carter in the guise of loveable Liverpool 'scally' Nige.
A previous winner of Comedian of the Year at the Liverpool Echo Arts Awards, Keith has also been a runner up in the BBC’s New Comedy Awards and Channel 4′s “So You Think You’re Funny”.
Apart from being a gifted character comedian, Keith is also a talented comic actor and writer. His credits include work for BBC Radio 2 and 4 as well as a play for Liverpool's Unity Theatre.
Compere on the night is Ray Peacock (pictured right). A prolific writer and performer, Ray is one of the most popular comperes and headline performers on the circuit.
Since 2009 he has co-hosted the award winning Peacock and Gamble Podcast. The Guardian listed the show as one of the top 10 comedy podcasts, describing it as "35 minutes of pure gold".
His TV credits include acting roles in Doctor Who, Skins and Harry Hill’s TV Burp and stand up on Russell Howard's Good News.
Completing the line-up is Welsh comic Kiri Pritchard-McLean. Named Breakout Act of the Year by Nottingham Comedy Festival, she combines a charming stage manager with a quick, deft wit.
The shows are a joint venture between Llangollen based Radiant Events and Kill For A Seat, who also run comedy shows at Mold's Theatr Clwyd.
Tickets for this Friday's show, priced at £8.50, are available to buy online at or in person from the Llangollen Pavilion or Gales of Llangollen. Doors open at 7.30pm and the show starts at 8pm.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Body discovered in local garden

The Daily Post website is reporting this afternoon that the body of an elderly woman has been found in a Llangollen garden following an overnight search involving the police helicopter.

See the full story at:

County council approves £8.5 million cuts

Denbighshire County Council has now approved cuts of £8.5 million to its budget for the next financial year.

See the full story at:

Railway plans trek to view new track

* A view from the site of the buffer stop looking east towards Carrog.

Llangollen Railway is inviting people to join a walk to view the extension of its track to Corwen on Saturday, February 1.  
Railway spokesman George Jones said: “Although the weather forecast for next weekend seems rather undecided, in the expectation there is no snow in the offering, an escorted walk is being arranged for a party to view progress on the track extension project as it nears the last half mile into what will be Dwyrain Corwen East.
“The party will get away from Carrog station at 11.45am, following the arrival of the first train of the season - a DMU service from Llangollen.
“The route will be via the riverside path, crossing the railway and going up on to the main A5 road then along the pavement to Bonwm where the new track comes into view.
“Continuing along t he A5, the track extension is visible as far as Over Bridge 28A, hence the trackbed clearance activity through to the outskirts of Corwen.
“From here the site of the platform is now evident with the footings in place and the progress with the flood relief scheme works.
“The walk will end at the car park from where a Route 5 bus ride back to Carrog is available at eight minutes past the hour, allowing perhaps for refreshment in the town. This is the option to see where the trains will run and terminate later in 2014.
“The distance of the walk is about 2.5 miles, duration with stops for viewing/information of perhaps 100 minutes.
“Stout footwear and weatherproof outdoor clothing essential, and yellow hi viz vests may be appropriate for some of the party to wear on the main road stretch where the pavement is narrow and requires single file progress. The footpath conditions may be boggy in parts.”
Those interested in joining the party are asked to advise their attendance by email to: for a final confirmation to be sent.
Work on the footings for the site of the phase 1 station at Corwen was completed on scheduled by the contractor last week.
Sixty-six concrete footings are now in place on the embankment.
The work now awaits the laying of base ballast and the track panels, after which it is expected that platform sections will be delivered by rail for erection on site.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Routine surgery to resume at North Wales hospitals

Routine surgery is being resumed at hospitals in North Wales after being postponed last week due to "increased pressure".

See the full story on the BBC website at

County set to approve cuts of £8.5 million

According to the BBC today (Monday), Denbighshire County Council is set to approve budget cuts of £8.5 million.

For the full story see:

AM backs call to make fuel poverty key priority

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood is supporting calls for fuel poverty to be made a central priority of the Welsh Government’s Tackling Poverty Strategy.
Raising the matter in the Assembly Chamber with the Finance Minister this week, Mr Isherwood, Chair of the Assembly Cross Party Group on Fuel Poverty and Shadow Minister for Communities and Housing, said:  “Given that the Welsh Government has decided to include fuel poverty within its Tackling Poverty Strategy in the Communities and Tackling Poverty portfolio, how do you respond to the statement in Consumer Futures’ draft work plan for 2014-15, that, ‘in Wales, we will seek to make sure fuel poverty is a central priority for the Welsh Government’s Tackling Poverty Strategy and commands sufficient resources to address the scale of the problem’?”
The Minister, Jane Hutt, said improving the energy efficiency of homes is the most direct way that Welsh Government can tackle fuel poverty and referred to the Welsh Government’s Arbed and NEST schemes.
However Mr Isherwood has stressed that these two schemes do not make a fuel strategy.
He said: “Uniquely amongst the UK nations, the Welsh Government  has scrapped its Fuel Poverty Advisory Group and rejected calls in the 2013 UK Fuel Poverty Monitor for its reinstatement.
Whereas the NEST and Arbed schemes are welcome, they alone do not make a fuel poverty strategy and I hope that the Welsh Government will heed Consumer Futures’ call.”

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pictures of groundworks going ahead at Cilmedw

Local man Simon Colllinge has let llanblogger have these panoramic pictures he has taken which clearly show a fleet of large earth-moving machines preparing the Climedw site off the A5 for the construction of a new factory for the Dobson & Crowther printworks.

Once the company has transferred its operations to the new building, work can begin on the Sainsbury's supermarket planned for Dobson & Crowther's current site adjacent to the river. 


Anti-speeding cop fined for car tax offence

Richard Brunstrom, the former North Wales police chief who led a controversial speeding campaign which saw scores of motorists fined during his term of office, has himself been fined for a car tax offence in New Zealand, according to a story in today's Mail Online.

See the full story at:

Town council sheds light on Christmas display

At their meeting on Tuesday members of Llangollen Town Council discussed the hot issue of the town’s Christmas lights.

Last year’s display prompted a number of criticisms and, as a result, a number of people unhappy with the lights recently held discussions with town clerk Gareth Thomas.
Mr Thomas told councillors that it had been something of “a heated debate” with one of the criticisms being that Llangollen’s lights weren’t as good as those in neighbouring Chirk.

At the end of the meeting, two of the people who had been complaining had agreed to look at the possibility of doing their own fundraising for a better display next year, Mr Thomas said.
He suggested that the existing set of lights, which were currently on lease from a private company, could be bought by the council to form the basis of a better display next year paid for by the fundraising.

Councillors agreed to this as the best course of action.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Skates highlights missed GP appointments

MORE than 300 hours of medical appointments were missed in just three months at GP surgeries across Clwyd South, Assembly Member Ken Skates has revealed.

Labour AM Ken Skates has established there were at least 1,903 ‘DNAs’ – instances where patients did not attend – at the practices in his constituency between October 1 and December 31.

He is now urging patients to either keep their allotted slots or cancel in good time to avoid wasting GPs’ time and costing the NHS money.

Mr Skates said: “Based on an average appointment being 10 minutes, these missed slots amount to more than 317 hours, which would mean that almost 40 eight-hour working days have been lost in just three months by patients not turning up or letting their surgery know that they won’t be coming.

“Those who fail to keep their appointments are simply adding to the strain on staff and NHS resources. They also prevent other people from getting medical attention when they don’t even inform the surgery they can’t make it and doctors’ and nurses’ valuable time goes begging.”

Llangollen Health Centre, which has branch surgeries in Acrefair and Glyn Ceiriog, has about 9,000 patients and recorded 628 DNAs.

Forge Road Surgery in Southsea, which has a branch surgery in Brymbo, has 6,500 patients and recorded 667 DNAs over the same period. Chirk Surgery had 222 missed slots, while Caritas Surgery – which has premises in Cefn Mawr and Coedpoeth – had 173.

The actual number of missed appointments is even higher than 1,903, as three surgeries did not supply their information. Some of those who responded also have appointment slots which are longer than 10 minutes, meaning the number of hours of DNAs will be even greater.

Mr Skates added: “Missed appointments cost the NHS tens of million pounds a year across Britain and its hard-working, dedicated staff are under enough pressure as it is without having their time wasted. I don’t think a simple, 30-second phone call is too much to ask.”

Shop front facelift grants agreed by town council

Llangollen town centre shops will soon be able to take advantage of a cash windfall to help them smarten up the front of their premises.

Denbighshire County Council has announced an allocation of £40,000 for shop front renovation grants.
The amount will be divided between the county’s eight main towns, giving £5,000 to each town council, including Llangollen.

The grant aims to provide 50% of the funding towards a facelift scheme up to a maximum of £1,000.
Applications are to be submitted to the town council which will either approve or reject them.

Where there is over-subscription of the scheme, the town council will use a scoring process giving priority for a grant to those shops it feels are best placed to receive funding.
Deadline for applications, which was originally set at December 20, has been moved to March 20.

Once approved by the town council, grant payments will be made by the county council.
In a report outlining the scheme considered by members of the town council at their meeting on Tuesday, town clerk Gareth Thomas said that such schemes had been successful in the past and had improved a number of properties in town centres.

He added: “The scheme is worthy of support.”
He also said in the report he was confident that the extra workload it would mean could be handled by the council. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Calls to re-open community hospital beds

The growing bed-blocking problem across North Wales has prompted calls to re-open community hospital beds.
Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board closed community hospitals in Llangollen, Flint, Prestatyn and Blaenau Ffestiniog last year, despite local campaigners warning that the centralisation plan would cause problems.
Plaid Cymru  North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said: “Only last week I called for an empty ward at Ruthin community hospital to be re-opened to cope with the pressures being put on our main three hospitals. This week the crisis has reached boiling point with non-urgent surgery being cancelled to cope with the pressure on beds. This is completely unacceptable, especially as this is not a winter crisis or as a result of a superbug infection.
“Senior Betsi Cadwaladr managers have, in their rush to centralise, failed to realise the importance of community hospitals as a way to ease pressure on our district general hospitals. We need those 50 beds lost last year to be re-opened to cope with the crisis and provide ongoing community care for patients.
“If NHS managers won’t respond to this simple solution, the Welsh Health Minister must intervene. It’s not a seasonal or temporary problem, it’s a structural crisis that has been allowed to develop under his government’s watch.”
The North Wales Health Alliance was formed last year to fight the closures programme and spokesperson Mabon ap Gwynfor said: “We warned Betsi Cadwaladr that closing dozens of beds without replacing them would cause problems. If anything, it’s worse than we feared. The pressures on the district general hospitals over the past year have seen ambulances backed up and unable to offload patients, beds have been blocked by patients unable to go home and the health service has become more remote from patients and communities.
“This could have been avoided if the health board had listened to campaigners, who understand the value of having health services at a community level. Re-opening community hospital wards makes sense and we hope it will prompt the new Betsi Cadwaladr chairman and chief executive to re-think the entire centralisation agenda.”

Skates welcomes Ruabon development

CLWYD South AM Ken Skates has welcomed plans for a new development between Ruabon and Plas Madoc which could create 1,100 jobs.

Multi-million pound proposals for a supermarket, hotel, pub/restaurant and more than 300 homes have been submitted to Wrexham County Borough Council – with land now earmarked for a new primary school to cope with the expected influx of families to the scheme on the 57-acre area of the Wynnstay Estate.
The development proposed by Wynnstay Farming Limited, on what is currently agricultural land, would also include offices and light industrial units.
Labour AM Mr Skates said: “The plans went on public display in Ruabon and Plas Madoc in September, when the developers received invaluable feedback. Over the two-day consultation period they engaged with more than 300 local residents and community representatives, and 60% of those who took part in the survey supported the outline application.

“More than 70% of people thought the development would improve employment opportunities in the area, while 69% said it would improve retail choice.

“However, some concerns were raised – particularly about the increased strain on local schools. I am delighted the revised plans have allocated an area of the site to accommodate a new primary school. This amendment has been made as a direct result of the feedback the developers received.

“The developers are continuing to talk to supermarket chains, house-building companies and a pub/hotel operator who have shown interest in being part of the project, which I believe would bring huge economic benefits to the area.

As well the jobs created once the scheme is complete, there would be hundreds of construction roles during the building phase – I welcome these plans and strongly feel they would breathe new life into the area.”

The application will be considered by the council’s planning committee in the coming months.

Deadline day today for Chain Bridge tenders

* Work is due to start work on the Chain Bridge renovation project.

Today (Friday) is deadline day for tenders to be submitted for facelift work on the world-famous Chain Bridge.

At the town council meeting on Tuesday night, town clerk Gareth Thomas told members that one or two potential contractors for the work had pulled out at an early stage of the tendering process.
He explained: “I think this was either because there was not enough money in the project, or they thought the risk was too high.”

Because of this the tendering process was extended until this week, he added.
He went on: “We still believe three tenders are due to come on Friday. When they are received a detailed assessment of the tenders will be prepared and a report will be brought to the next council meeting. After a decision is made we can then get on with the engineering side of the project.”

Mr Thomas said the heritage side of the project was going well, with the two officers appointed to handle the operation inviting local artists and the town’s museum to get involved.
There would also be joint working with schools and training sessions for volunteers to work on the project were being arranged.

The project now had its own Facebook page and Twitter account with the aim being to reach out to as many people as possible.
The mayor, Cllr Bob Lube, said that if all went according to plan, and work started on schedule, an opening day for the refurbished bridge might be held in July. 

Last summer it was announced that the long-awaited £465,000 restoration of the 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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Politicians demand answers over Glyn Ceiriog Post Office

CLWYD South AM Ken Skates and MP Susan Elan Jones have called for answers over the future of a rural post office which villagers fear could be closed. 

Residents in Glyn Ceiriog have raised concerns that their local branch is at risk as part of the Post Office’s biggest-ever reshuffle.

Several constituents have contacted the Labour politicians, who have vowed to seek immediate clarification over the future of the ‘vital’ facility.

Mr Skates said: “The Post Office branch at Glyn Ceiriog has received a lot of financial support from the Welsh Labour Government in recent years and is an important and integral part of the close-knit community – I can see no reason whatsoever why it should be at risk of closure.

“The branch serves a large rural community of about 1,500 households in the Ceiriog Valley and there is nowhere else for many miles around which offers the full range of Post Office services. Closing the business would be a huge blow to the community and the people who rely on the post office, many of whom are elderly and go there to pay their bills.

“Glyn Ceiriog Post Office also runs a community IT Hub with minimal charges, which is in use daily, and a local cafe and tourist information centre which is open six days a week.

“I will seek immediate answers and clarification from the Post Office. Family-run businesses at the heart of their community are sadly becoming rarer and rarer in this day and age, but they play a valued role and we need to do all we can to preserve them.”

Susan Elan Jones MP added: “Glyn Ceiriog Post Office is vital local facility which must be kept open. I am working very closely with local residents on putting forward a strong case to try and make Post Office Limited see sense.”

Multi-million development plan for Ruabon area

The Daily Post is reporting today that multi-million pound plans for a supermarket, hotel and hundreds of homes in a scheme that could create 1,100 jobs on a site near Ruabon have been submitted to Wrexham council.

For more details see:

Town council backs canal towpath action call

* Part of the canal towpath.

The town council has backed calls for urgent attention to be given to the canal towpath.

At their meeting on Tuesday evening members were addressed by Mel Lawrence, chair of Llangollen Civic Society, who said the path was in a “deplorable state”.
Mr Lawrence said that last year the new Canal & River Trust, which has taken over responsibility for maintaining the towpath from British Waterways, repaired about 50 yards of it from the wharf towards the aqueduct.

He said he believed they had done this on a trial basis to see how the work went with a view to completing further sections.
However, he added: “It went very well but nothing else happened. The path is now dangerous with lumps sticking up through it.”

He suggested that further sections should be repaired as a matter of urgency and told councillors: “The canal is within the World Heritage Site, which seems to have been forgotten.
“The civic society has written to the Canal & River Trust asking when they are going to do about it. We would also like to see the town council expressing it concern and getting on board.”

At the suggestion of the mayor, Cllr Bob Lube, members voted to back the civic society in its approach to the Canal & River Trust. 

Local precept to rise by 3.65%

The town council is to increase its share of the county's council tax bill by just over 3% from April.

At their meeting on Tuesday night members agreed an increase of £3,100 in the council’s annual budget to a total of £87,000 for 2014/15.
This means increasing the precept - the amount added to the county council tax bill to cover the town council’s running costs –  by 3.65% for 2014/15.

This will add £1.82 to the bill for the average Band D property.
Town clerk Gareth Thomas said the budget would cover expenses such as maintaining the town’s CCTV system and Christmas lights.

Cllr Sheenah Burrell, who was one of the sub-group of members which worked on the budget, said: “We want to remain effective and active and to do that we have had to increase the precept. None of our decisions were taken easily or lightly.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Isherwood questions council merger plans

Questioning the First Minister in the Assembly this week over plans to merge councils in Wales, North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood highlighted the concerns of local authorities in North Wales.
The Williams Commission proposes merging local authorities to reduce numbers from 22 to between 10 and 12, but Mr Isherwood stressed to Carwyn Jones in the Assembly Chamber yesterday that councils in North Wales fear this would weaken accountability.
Speaking in the chamber he said: “You may be aware that the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee recently completed an inquiry into progress on local government collaboration.
"How do you respond to the evidence to that inquiry from Conwy council, on behalf of north Wales councils, that working across organisational and geographic boundaries could bring complexity and ambiguity that could generate confusion and weaken accountability, paralleled by Cardiff Business School, which said ‘there is no simple answer to the local government sized conundrum because you have hundreds of different cost curves, all behaving differently.
"Whereas, for one service, the right scale may be regional or even across Wales, another may well be best delivered at an incredibly local level’”.
The First Minister replied: “What the Williams Commission identifies is a need for change now and it identifies a need for change in order to benefit the public. It also identifies the problems that have arisen due to the lack of collaboration between many local authorities in Wales.”
Mr Isherwood added: “To embark on a reorganisation at a time when Local Government is enmeshed in driving through significant financial savings is fraught with hazard, with the Welsh Local Government Association saying that the cost of merging councils in Wales could cost £200 million, double the Williams Commission estimate.
"All precedent in both the public and private sector indicates that even if mergers eventually prove effective, it takes a minimum 5 – 10 years to cover the merger costs and deliver the integrated systems required. Rather than freeing funds for service delivery, this threatens to reduce them even further.”

National Eisteddfod gets an extra £90,000

First Minister, Carwyn Jones, has said that an additional £90,000 will be awarded to the National Eisteddfod this year to enable it to implement several of the recommendations made by the Eisteddfod Task and Finish Group.

The announcement forms part of the Welsh Government’s response to the Group’s report, which outlines ways the national festival can modernise and increase its impact.
The Eisteddfod Task and Finish Group, chaired by Roy Noble, was established following the Eisteddfod in 2012. The Group was asked to consider the future location of the Eisteddfod, its appeal to new visitors and ways to increase visitor numbers.

The First Minister said that he was pleased to accept all of the recommendations in principle and that the Welsh Government will support any operational steps that can be taken.

Further considerations will need to be made to some of the recommendations due to their financial implications.

The recommendations include, that the festival continue to travel to different parts of Wales each year, that the Eisteddfod creates a plan to attract more young volunteers, and that it establishes a Group of experts to create an ambitious Digital Strategy.

The First Minister said: "The National Eisteddfod is a cornerstone of Welsh language and culture. From the day that the Eisteddfod announces it will visit a certain area, excitement builds and there are many opportunities for people of all ages to take part in a variety of activities in their local community.

"We established this Task and Finish Group so that we would be fully informed of public opinion and of the best options available to widen the festival’s appeal and increase visitor numbers. The recommendations in the report are reasonable and offer a clear vision on how the Eisteddfod can develop and modernise.

"We will now continue to work closely with the Eisteddfod as they consider their response to the recommendations."

Roberts welcomes fall in JSA claimants

Aled Roberts, Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for North Wales, has welcomed figures released today showing that 617 fewer people in Denbighshire’s two Parliamentary constituencies are claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance compared to a year ago.
This coincides with figures released today showing that Wales’ unemployment rate has dropped by 0.9% over the last three months.
“Today’s figures are excellent news for Denbighshire,” commented Aled Roberts.
“Liberal Democrats in government are working tirelessly to get our economy moving in the right direction.  Since taking over the economic mess left by Labour, we are now seeing more people in employment than ever before.
“While these figures are very positive, there can be no room for complacency.  There is still a long way to go.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for a stronger economy and fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life.”

Watchdog "disappointed" at operation suspension

The health service watchdog for North Wales has today spoken of its disappointment about the decision made by health board managers to temporarily suspend ‘non-urgent’ operations at the three main hospital sites - Ysbyty Gwynedd, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Ysbyty Wrexham Maelor.
Geoff Ryall-Harvey, Chief Officer for the North Wales Community Health Council, said "I am very surprised and disappointed to learn of this decision, in particular as the CHC has had no prior warning of this measure.
"The CHC has always quizzed the health board closely on plans for temporary changes if pressures on services increase and we have always been clear that if such plans proved necessary in the future, the board should give notification of such changes as far in advance as possible.
"I have asked the health board for more information behind these decisions and about the demands on emergency medical services across North Wales. It is worrying that none of the ‘usual’ causes for high levels of emergency admissions to hospitals – such as icy weather, causing trips and falls; flu and other respiratory infections – are an issue here.
"We will be seeking a detailed plan that will ensure that the suspension on planned operations will be lifted in the very near future – a promise to keep the matter under review on a daily basis is not good enough."
Mr Ryall- Harvey went on: "It is unfortunate for patients and their families that this suspension of services is happening every winter. Delays in planned operations could well result in those conditions becoming emergencies and it is my concern that there will be a real cost in terms of pain, suffering and worry for patients whose operations are delayed. We want people who are affected by this decision to tell us of any problems they have as a result.
"The CHC will be voicing its significant concerns about the possible impact of changes, temporary or not, on patients and will continue to monitor the impact of the changes across North Wales. The CHC supports the health board’s plan to undertake an urgent review to establish how this situation has developed so quickly and what can be done to ensure it is not a regular occurrence."

No need to cancel ops if community hospitals had stayed open says doctor

Operations would not have been cancelled had the Health Board kept community hospital beds open.
That is the view of Dr Phil White, secretary of the North Wales Medical Committee.
On Tuesday the Health Board announced that they would cancel non-emergency operations this week in their three district general hospitals, claiming that increased pressure for urgent care has placed added strain on the hospitals. The Health Board said that many of their patients were elderly and frail which has meant them staying in hospital for longer which has increased calls for hospital beds.
Dr Phil White, speaking on BBC Radio Cymru said that doctors had said that this would happen from the start, and that the Health Board had not listened to their warnings. He added that the Health Board had cut the number of beds but had not put other provisions in place. He said: “This is not something that’s happened over night, we’ve been warning about this for nearly five years because of the fall in the number of available beds”.
His comments were echoed by health campaigners in the Dee Valley.
Mabon ap Gwynfor of Keep Llangollen Health Services said: “This is why we didn’t want to see the Health Board close Llangollen hospital. It’s not because we want to keep out-dated buildings, but because we want to see a first lass health service provided to the people of this area.
“We warned them that closing Llangollen hospital beds would put pressure on Wrexham Maelor. We warned them that added pressure due to community bed closures would result in superbug and Norovirus outbreaks. And we warned them that patients would have to travel further away from their family and friends. This has all happened within less than a year of the hospital’s closure.
“We welcome the development of a much needed new health centre in Llangollen, but not at the expense of losing hospital beds. We continue to call for hospital beds to be included in the new development.”

107 positive tests in Christmas drink drive campaign

Over 460 drivers in Wales were caught over the drink drive limit during the All Wales Christmas Anti Drink and Drug Driving Campaign.
Throughout the month-long campaign 35,255 drivers throughout Wales were breath tested between 1st December 2013 and 1st January 2014.
North Wales Police carried out 18,159 breath tests with 107 being positive. In Dyfed Powys a total of 11,281 breath tests were carried out, with 161 being positive. In Gwent officers tested 2,470 drivers, with 39 being positive, and South Wales Police administered 3,345 tests with 158 positive results.
Some of the highest readings recorded during the campaign in North Wales were 133, 129 and 124 – the legal limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. All three individuals have been charged and have appeared/are due to appear before the courts.
The campaign was launched with support from the family of Kieran Lea Arnold, who was tragically killed following a road traffic collision by a drink driver who was twice the legal limit last June.
The 21-year-old plumber sustained fatal injuries during the two-vehicle collision which happened on the A541 Pontblyddyn to Caergwrle road.
As a result of the collision 48-year-old Robert Bryn Williams was sentenced to five years four months imprisonment and was banned from driving for three years.
Speaking on behalf of the Welsh forces, Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard said: “Although warnings were issued throughout the campaign 465 drivers throughout Wales chose to ignore those warnings by risking their own lives and the lives of others by breaking the law. This is very disappointing.
“It is also astonishing to see that some were almost four times the legal limit. It is clear that these individuals showed a complete disregard for the safety of other road users as well as their own.
“Driving with excess alcohol or under the influence of drugs is not just a criminal offence but also completely unacceptable. 
He added: “However, drink driving is not just about Christmas. It ruins lives all year round. Perpetual drink drivers will choose to drink and drive any day of the year so we need support from the public 365 days a year to help us take these people off the roads of Wales.”
If you have information relating to someone you think is driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, please contact North Wales Police on 101 or via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.

HSBC bank building goes on market at £275,000

* The bank building in Bridge Street which is now on the market.

After local campaigners failed in their attempts to keep it open as a bank, the building currently occupied by the HSBC bank in Llangollen has now gone on the market for £275,000.

In the marketing material agents Legat Owen describe it as “an imposing, detached former HSBC Bank arranged on basement, ground, first and second floors.”

The description adds:  “The property has a host of original features and is Grade II listed.

“The property benefits from a self contained ground floor retail/A2/Office accommodation with separate access to the side to the basement and upper floor residential accommodation. To the rear of the property there is a sizeable garden, which overlooks the River Dee.”

The sales information goes on: “The property is available by way of  a new full repairing and insuring lease at a rent of £15,000 per annum or alternatively the freehold is available at £275,000.”

Legat Owen says that property’s rateable value is £9,500, rates payable (13/14) are £4,408 and that the residential element is within Council Tax Band A.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Skates to meet council chief over Plas Madoc

CLWYD South AM Ken Skates says he will ask Wrexham Council bosses to ensure every option available is explored to keep Plas Madoc Leisure Centre open.

Labour AM Mr Skates will meet council leader Neil Rogers on February 7, and has vowed to raise his constituents’ concerns over the planned closure.

He said: “Many of my constituents have certainly made their feelings known about the council’s proposals for Plas Madoc, and I am now looking forward to sitting down and discussing what options are available.

“I am a regular user of the centre and I know many people in Clwyd South and further afield would be sad to see it close.

“Councils don’t take this type of major decision lightly, and authorities across Wales are being put under severe pressure because of the UK Government’s austerity measures. However, I am still hopeful we can find an alternative and keep the facility open.”

Planned hospital surgery suspended


All routine planned non-emergency surgery across North Wales has been suspended due to what has been described as "increased pressure".

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said the move affects Wrexham Maelor hospital, Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor and Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan.

For more details on the story see:

* Commenting on the announcement, Aled Roberts, Assembly Member for North Wales, said: 
“This announcement is very worrying.  The Welsh Labour Government had previously said that it was confident that winter plans were in place.  However, these plans are not holding up well at all. 
“This is yet further evidence that Betsi Cadwaladr health board is under an immense amount of pressure and that it is really struggling.
“Recent figures have shown that Betsi Cadwaladr is the worst performing health board in Wales with regards to patient waiting times.  Many patients are already waiting too long until they receive treatment, it’s therefore a concern that many will now have to wait even longer.
“This announcement has been very sudden.  It is essential that if the health board is considering extending the suspension of services beyond next Monday, then patients are informed as soon as possible.
“Not only is Betsi Cadwaladr the worst performing health board on waiting times, but this is a problem that has been growing every month since March of last year - there has been a 7% increase in those waiting for more than 6 months and a 4% increase for those waiting over 9 months in the most recent figures released last week for November 2013.
“With over 4,330 patients waiting more than 9 months until treatment in the Betsi Cadwaladr area, which is roughly 30% of the figure for the whole of Wales, there clearly is a major problem in the North which can only grow significantly after the cancellation of all non-emergency operations this week.
“There seems little chance of meeting the Welsh Government’s target of having just 5% waiting more than six months for treatment and nobody waiting over 9 months.”

* Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said: “This announcement of opera tions being cancelled will do nothing to ease the growing sense of crisis at Betsi Cadwaladr and the NHS in the North. The recent tragic case of Mr Fred Pring highlighted yet again the delays ambulances are encountering in trying to get patients into hospitals.
 “Plaid Cymru made it clear that last year’s closure of community hospital beds would put more and more pressure on the main three hospitals and we now see that Glan Clwyd, Bangor and Wrexham are unable to cope with increased seasonal demand and a growing ageing population. The message to GPs confirms that prolonged hospital admissions are causing bed blocking. How many of these patients could and should be moving out to community hospital beds?
“This latest cancellation of surgery just postpones the problem and creates further backlog. I don’t know to what extent this is a knee-jerk reaction to Mr Pring but it’s high time that the Welsh Health Minister got a grip of the situation here in North Wales.
“We want to see an improved Welsh Health Service here. For that to happen, senior management need to understand that the tickbox target culture can sometimes have unforeseen consequences outside their own narrow silo of responsibility. The Health Minister should intervene before a bad situation becomes worse.”

Mabon ap Gwynfor, spokesman for the North Wales Health Alliance:  “The North Wales Health Alliance was formed last year in part to oppose the closure of community hospitals across the North. We warned then that the loss of more than 50 beds would put extra pressure on our district general hospitals. Now we see the ambulances parked outside for hours on end, patients unable to be discharged because there are no community beds and on top of this operations being cancelled. When will health bosses start listening to people?
“Since then we’ve had a new health minister, a new chief executive and a new chairman of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board. But we’re still facing the same problems because none of them have so far tackled the underlying problems within the health service in the North.”

Hospital appointment becomes seven hour marathon

A LLANGOLLEN man has complained to Wales’s Health Minister about a gruelling ordeal which he says saw a simple outpatients’ appointment take almost seven hours due to problems with hospital transport.

Well-known local campaigner Martin Crumpton claims the experience has caused his already delicate health to deteriorate further and left him “in dread” of his next appointment later this month. 

The Welsh Ambulance Service has now begun an official investigation.

As a category C2 patient needing two people to lift himself and his wheelchair in and out of an ambulance, Mr Crumpton was collected by a two-man ambulance crew from his home at 9.45am on January 6 to be taken to his 10.30am appointment at Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital where he had treatment to diabetic foot ulcers.

As the result of a delay of over three hours in being picked by hospital transport, he didn’t arrive home until 3.30pm that day by which time he says he was heading for a diabetic hypoglycemic attack.
He said: “I arrived there on time and was seen within 15 minutes. The treatment ended at 11.20am and hospital transport was notified I was ready to go home immediately.

“The podiatrist saw I was still waiting and called them again at 12 noon. Their response was an apologetic one-hour delay, with my pick-up at 2pm.
“At 2.10pm, seeing I was still there, they called again. I was then, finally, picked up at 2.40pm by a crew who said they'd only just been assigned.

“They told me that their control had been making significant errors co-ordinating the crews throughout the day. I finally arrived home at 3.30pm.
“The round trip has taken six hours and 45 minutes for an out-patients' appointment lasting 40 minutes.”
Mr Crumpton added: “The whole time I was hunched-up in my wheelchair with pressure on my feet, specifically the thing I should not be doing.

“During my extended wait, the small amount of food all sensible diabetics carry was not adequate and I was heading for a hypo.
“As if that wasn't enough, as a heart failure patient on daily doses of diuretics, I needed assistance to be wheeled to a toilet which was ill-equipped to accommodate a wheelchair user due to it layout and small size.
“Once home, I was fed urgently, given a morphine compound and painkillers. But the pain  continued throughout the night, keeping me awake for four hours.

“I have another appointment on January 20 and I quite dread another long wait.

“The district nurse confirms that following my visit to the hospital my foot ulcers have been damaged as well as my already-damaged achilles heels.
“What I've learned from staff I see regularly, and often on a first-name basis, is that the Welsh Ambulance Service is severely understaffed. 

“Staff are retiring and there is no recruitment to replace them. The non-emergency ambulances are, in a few cases, quite decrepit.”

In a letter of complaint to Health Minister Mark Drakeford, he says:  “All this, Minister, is wholly down to underfunding and I'm willing to wager with you that this now-deplorable service contributes significantly to patient dissatisfaction figures.
“They also tell me that ambulances queue four to five deep at hospitals all over North Wales on a daily basis, and as we left the Maelor on January 6, I saw five waiting myself.” 

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “Our Patient Care Service (PCS) makes more than 1 million journeys every year, providing non-emergency transport to routine hospital appointments in England and Wales for 4,000 patients a day.

“As part of our ambitious modernisation and clinical transformation programme, Working Together for Success, we have made a firm commitment to provide a high quality, planned Patient Care Service which is valued by users, and have seen a number of improvements over the year, including the improved timeliness of our service.
“In 2013, we replaced 14 of our Patient Care Service vehicles in North Wales, and anticipate the delivery of further vehicles in the coming weeks. We are also in the process of recruiting more than a dozen new Patient Care Service staff in North Wales.
“We are disappointed to hear of the patient’s concern on this occasion and have contacted them directly to ensure their future transport arrangements run as smoothly as possible.

“A formal concern has been received in relation to this case, and we will be responding directly to the patient once we have looked into the matter in more detail.”