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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Eisteddfod's first choir is back for encore

* The Colne Valley Male Voice Choir.

The first ever choir to sing at the world-famous Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod is to make a symbolic return to celebrate the festival’s 70th year.
The Colne Valley Male Voice Choir, based in Huddersfield, has scooped six titles at the historic festival over the years as well as five second places and two third prizes – but back in 1947 they missed out.
The 70-strong choir, which was founded in Slaithwaite in 1922, was the first to take to the Eisteddfod stage in 1947 and it was up against choirs from Hungary, the eventual winners, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Holland as well as Wales and England.
Now, seven decades later, representatives from the choir have been invited as special guests to the Choir of the World finals at the 70th staging of the iconic festival.

It will mark a symbolic return for the choir which has enjoyed a long relationship with the festival where the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti made his first international bow as part of the Chorus Rossini from Modena in 1955.
The Choir of the World competition is now for the Pavarotti Trophy and although Colne Valley missed out on a prize in that first year, they went on to claim a hat-trick of wins in the 1960s and have become one of the UK’s most successful male voice choirs with a host of titles at home and abroad.

* The programme for the
first Eisteddfod in 1947. 
They have sung without music shets since Thom Meredith became the Musical Director as a 23-year-old in 1989 so they have performed more than 300 different songs from memory in 26 years – a feat unlikely to have been replicated elsewhere.
Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths said: “We’d be delighted to see the Colne Valley Choir here at the Eisteddfod again.
“They are part of the history of the event and there will always be a welcome in Llangollen for the choir which started the great tradition of the Choir of the World competition.”
Returning to Llangollen will bring back happy memories for David Hirst, the second longest-serving member of the choir who joined aged 22 in November 1960 – just a few months after the first Llangollen success.
“Obviously, we have a special association with the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and it would be quite an honour to return”, he said.
“As well as being the first male choir to sing at the Festival, there was a hat-trick of wins in 1960, 1961, 1962 and altogether there have been six wins, five seconds and two third prizes in the 23 visits by the Choir since 1947. Quite an achievement when you were up against 19 or 20 choirs.
“Meeting the other choirs and making friends is an important part of it all. We have had exchange concert visits with Welsh and other choirs through competing and it is a great way get to know people. There’s lots of camaraderie among choir singers.
“We hold the competition very dear and we’re still very proud of the fact that we were the first male choir to sing there.”
The Choir, which rehearses in Slaithwaite Conservative Club on Monday evenings, has only ever had five conductors during its 93 years of existence. The longest-serving was George Stead who led the Choir for 44 years and wrote the very popular Psalm 126 which is regularly performed by male voice choirs across the country.
Every year the choir holds an annual Christmas Festival concert at Huddersfield Town Hall attended by more than 1,000 people.

* Oldest voice, Frank Littlewood, now 86. 
“We are very much both a competition and a concert choir. We believe that by entering competitions, it is a sure and proven way to maintain and indeed, improve on the already high standards of the Choir,” said David.
“At the moment there are 72 full members and normally at weekly rehearsals and in concert we average around 60 singers. There’s a great camaraderie within the Choir and it is great seeing your friends every week.”
The Choir’s official accompanist is Keith Swallow, a celebrated solo pianist in his own right, who has been in the role since 1957. The longest-serving member is the Rev John Radcliffe, who joined the same year and is also the Choir Chaplain. The youngest singer is Tom Law, 24, while Frank Littlewood is the oldest at 86.
They have toured France, Germany, Ireland, Czechoslovakia and the USA, some of them exchange visits with choirs arising through relationships built at Llangollen.
In California in 1984 they experienced an earthquake which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale. The headline of the local newspaper’s review of the previous evening’s concert performance read ‘English Choir moved the Earth’.
“The Choir has performed with leading singers from opera and the Concert stage and has also sung in front of the Queen as part of massed choir at Leeds Town Hall. Many of the Choir’s present concerts have top brass bands as guest artistes” said David.
In recent years the Choir has competed and performed at the biennial Cornwall International Male Vocal Choral Festival where it has won the large choir class twice and in May they were also awarded trophies as the Festival’s Best Large Choir and the Overall Best UK Choir.
The Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod has been held every summer since 1947 and is recognised as one of the world’s most inspirational music festivals.
Next year’s event, the 70th to be held, will feature star names Bryn Terfel, Katherine Jenkins and Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra who will bring the curtain down on the festival on Sunday, July 10.
* For more information go to

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Emma plans charity trek to Llangollen

By kind permission of Nantwich News

* Emma Husband and her dog Timo.

A woman suffering from a rare thyroid disease is to trek from Nantwich to Llangollen with her rescue dog in aid of charity.

Emma Husband and border terrier cross Timo will be completing the 60-mile trek in May along the canal.

She wants to raise funds for the Dogs Trust after seeing the work the charity did when she took in Timo two years ago.

Emma, 40, has suffered from Graves Disease for nine years, which means she has an overactive thyroid gland.

And the regular radioiodine treatment she receives at Christie in Manchester leaves her very tired and results in some memory loss.

But she is determined to overcome this to complete the walk.

Emma, from Stockport, said: “This is quite a big challenge for me and my dog as I have a thyroid disease, so get tired quickly.

“And my dog was abused before my husband Neil and I rescued him and he was quite broken when we got him, just over 2 years ago, so sometimes can struggle being social.

“We always had dogs in my family when I was young and I always wanted a dog of my own but my situation never allowed for it.

“Neil then started to work from home and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to adopt a dog.

“I am very into my animal welfare, so there was no way I would ever buy a dog or a cat, there are so many unwanted pets in rescue centres and dogs homes that need loving warm homes.

“Adopting a rescue dog can have its challenges, as Timo did.

“When we adopted Timo he had just turned one-year-old, he didn’t trust us at all, particularly men, he would run into the corner of the room and shake if he saw a brush.

“He wasn’t house trained at all.

“We have now had Timo for just over two years and lots of people comment on how much of a different dog he is.

“With TLC and boundaries, he has come on leaps and bounds with his confidence growing every day, he can show people how lovely he is now.”

* You can support Emma’s 60-mile trek by visiting her just giving page, or text Timo65 £5 to 70070

Friday, January 29, 2016

Young 'Uns winging in for honking good show

* Back row,  from left: Little ducklings played by Kate Reardon, Connie Richardson, Maisie Ansloos and Charlie Priestley. Front row: Ugly (Shea Ferron), Drake their dad (Jac Edwards) and  Ida, their  mum (Amy Jones).  
FORTY youngsters from Llangollen and surrounding areas are to show off their theatrical talents in a modern re-working of the story of the Ugly Duckling.
Honk! is an award-winning British musical comedy, which will be performed by Llangollen Young Uns from February 4-6 at the Town Hall.
The show’s producer, Pamela Williams from Chirk, said: “We are delighted to have such a talented and committed group of youngsters to bring you an exciting and moving show.
“The story of the Ugly Duckling is well known but this musical version gives a modern, hilarious and deeply touching interpretation to the fairy tale.  
"The script is witty and the music is wonderful and we think it will appeal to an audience of all ages.” 

The Young 'Uns are Llangollen Operatic Society's junior section and welcome youngsters from aged six to 18 years. 
Members are drawn, not only from Llangollen but  also areas including Corwen, Glyn Ceiriog, Wrexham and Chirk. 
This is the 26th production from Young Uns with previous shows including Half a Sixpence, Annie and Beauty and the Beast.   
Amongst the cast is rising star  Cassius Hackforth from Ysgol Dinas Bran in Llangollen. 
He joined Young Uns four years ago and has regularly played leading roles. In Honk! he’s the comic character, Bullfrog. 
Cassius is about to perform with a professional company in Rhyl  and is looking to gain future accreditation in performing arts and musical theatre through the National Youth Music Theatre scheme.

Playing the part of Ugly the duckling is Shea Ferron, from St Joseph's Catholic and Anglican High School, who was an outstanding shop-boy in the Young Uns' past production of Half a Sixpence.

Amy Jones, from Ysgol Dinas Bran, takes on the role of Ida, the mother of Ugly and the other ducklings.

She has been with Young 'Uns for four years and played a variety of roles. She is studying drama at A level and hopes to become a writer, editor or stage director. 

Jac Edwards, another Ysgol Dinas Bran student, takes the part of Drake, father of the ducklings and often unreliable husband of Ida. 

Honk! is on at Llangollen Town Hall from February 4-6, including a Saturday matinee. 
* Tickets are available from Llangollen Tourist Information Centre, Jades Hair and Beauty, Gwyn Davies Butchers and Stella Bond on 01978 860441 or online at:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

County backs council tax reduction scheme

Councillors in Denbighshire have agreed to implement the All Wales Council Tax Reduction Scheme for the 2016/17.
The council tax benefit system changed in March 2013, when responsibility for providing support for the tax and the funding associated with it was passed to the Welsh Government.
As a result, the Welsh Government, in partnership with councils across Wales, introduced the council tax reduction scheme.

There will continue to be one scheme across Wales for 2016/17, with the aim of providing a consistent level of support to claimants.
The maximum level of support is 100% and councils can use their discretion when dealing with applications locally.
Denbighshire councillors have agreed to continue with the reduction scheme for the next financial year. 
They also agreed some discretionary elements for Denbighshire, including: 
* Increasing the extended payment period of four weeks to people after they return to work, if they have been receiving benefits for 26 weeks or more.
* Discretion to disregard war disablement or war widows pensions when calculating income as part of the application process.
* The ability to backdate for up to six months any application of council tax support awards for working age customers more than the standard period of three months prior to the claim.
Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill, Cabinet Lead Member for Finance, said: “The scheme has been set up to help those that need support in paying council tax and the council has a pot of funding in place to provide financial support on a case by case basis. 
“People can submit an online claim form available from the council’s website or through our One Stop Shops.
“Some applications may be submitted through landlords or organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and benefits advice agencies." 

Have your say on health and social care

* Talking Points will be held at Llangollen Health Centre.

Denbighshire Council’s Community Led Conversations project has launched a new series of Talking Points for 2016.

The first one in Llangollen is today (Thursday).

A Talking Point is an opportunity for county residents to meet with health and social care staff from all partner organisations and talk face to face about the well-being outcomes they want for themselves or for others.
The Talking Points provide a pathway between adult social care services offered over the telephone and the more formal social care assessments that happen in a person’s own home.
Residents are encouraged to come along and explain what they feel is missing in their local community that could make a difference to t heir health and well-being and they can also get involved and share their knowledge, skills and experiences to improve the well-being of others in their community.
Talking Points sessions are now available all over Denbighshire, where residents can drop in and speak to people from a range of local services who will be on hand to offer advice and information.
Talking Points planned for Llangollen in January and February are:
* 28/01 Llangollen Health Centre 10am – 1.30pm
* 04/02 Llangollen Health Centre, 10am – 1.30pm
* 18/02 Llangollen Health Centre 10am – 1.30pm
* 23/02 Llangollen Health Centre 10am – 1.30pm

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

County agrees 1.5% council tax rise

Councillors in Denbighshire have approved an increase of 1.5% in council tax for the 2016/17 financial year – one of the lowest increases in the whole of Wales.

They agreed the level of tax as part of a discussion on the budget. 

It has already identified £5. 2 million savings for the 2016/17 financial year and no further cuts are required at this stage.
Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill, Cabinet Lead Member for Finance and Assets, said: “The Cabinet had recommended the 1.5% increase to Full Council and this has been ratified by councillors.
“The council is delighted to have kept the increase in council tax to this level.   The financial settlement announced by the Welsh Government in December 2015 was much better than expected and this has meant that we were in a position to keep the increase as low as we possibly could. 
“Residents in Denbighshire have also told us they want to see this happen and we are pleased to be in a position to respond positively to this.
Councillor Hugh Evans OBE, Leader of Denbighshire, said: “Now that we have agreed on the council tax increase, the next step is to formally approve the council tax levels for the coming year.
"The proposed budget takes into account an increase in funding to schools to meet the national level of protection and to set aside £480,000 to mitigate the risks to the delivery of this budget.
“The council has worked hard over recent years to be more efficient and effective in the way that it works, whilst identifying cuts that have the lowest possible effect on frontline services provided to the public."
The discussion to formalise council tax levels for 2016/17 will take place at the full council meeting being held at County Hall on Tuesday, February 26, at 10am.  

Ysgol Bryn Collen delighted with Estyn report

* Delighted pupils from Ysgol Bryn Collen, Llangollen
give the thumbs up to their successful Estyn report.
Staff, governors and pupils have been commenting on Ysgol Bryn Collen's latest report from Estyn Inspectors in which the school wins high praise.
Some key highlights from the inspection, carried out in November 2015, shows that pupils respond eagerly in lessons, have imaginative learning experiences and have a well-developed understanding of how to make progress. The school’s leadership team has been praised for their commitment to raising standards and improving pupils’ learning opportunities for the future.
The school’s prospects for the future are said to be good and with the continued rigorous process of self-evaluation by the headteacher and senior leaders, and Estyn Inspectors believe this will lead to measurable improvements.
Chair of Governors, Dr Janet Knight said: “The Estyn Inspection team has clearly been impressed with the hard work and commitment that has brought us on this stage of our journey so far. 
"We are absolutely thrilled that everyone from the teaching and support staff, pupils and parents has contributed to this wonderful achievement. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their commitment and dedication.
“We will now be building on these improvements based on the inspector’s recommendations. The governors will be working closely with the headteacher and his team to continue to improve."
Headteacher David Coffey said: “We are extremely pleased with the conclusions of the Estyn Inspectors which reflects the dedication of our entire school community.
“Here at Ysgol Bryn Collen we put our pupils’ learning at the core of everything we do. We continue to make every effort to ensure that every child is supported to meet their potential whatever their individual needs, so that they can enjoy everything that our positive and happy school environment has to offer.”
Mr Coffey said he would now be going through the report in detail and take on board the recommendations of the inspectors, including putting plans in place to focus on those currently in receipt of free school meals, improve the accuracy and presentation of pupils’ writing at Key Stage 2, develop opportunities for foundation phase pupils and lead all teachers to provide high level of challenge for pupils of all abilities.
Members of the student council, Alfie and Georgina, said:  "We are proud of what the inspectors have said about our school. Our school is full of enthusiastic pupils who enjoy working hard and by working together we can make our school even better."

Cost of policing rises by 9p a week

The cost of policing North Wales is going up by just 9p a week for the average householder.
The two per cent increase asked for by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick (pictured) was agreed earlier this week by the North Wales Police and Crime Panel.
It amounts to a rise of £4.68 a year a Band D property which will now pay £240.12 for annual policing.
It comes despite over £24 million in cuts to the North Wales Police budget over the past five years and with the prospect of £7.3 million in cuts to come over the next four years.
The meeting also heard that planned cutbacks to the number of Police Community Support Officers had been put on hold.
According to Cllr Philip Evans JP, a member of Conwy County Borough Council, what the commissioner had achieved in the face of cutbacks was "miraculous".
He said: "Winston deserves full marks. The increase is commendable considering the circumstances."
Mr Roddick welcomed the spending review by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, which ruled out further cuts to the policing budget this year but he added that North Wales Police still faced a very challenging financial climate.
He said: “I believe that our budget once again balances financial prudence and enabling North Wales Police to keep North Wales a safe place to live, work and visit.
“It means that working in effective partnership has become even more important and has a high priority in my revised police and crime plan on which the precept is based.
“That is not only to assist North Wales Police and its partners in overcoming our financial challenges but also in delivering my other three priorities, preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, delivering an effective response and reducing harm and the risk of harm.
“Working in partnership enables responses to be more effective and lasting in their benefit to the community than they otherwise would be. It also reduces demand and increases the capacity of frontline staff.
“We must meet the challenges of the growing demands on policing which now include child sexual exploitation and cyber crime while the most recent terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere mean that a region with a major port also has heightened anti-terrorism responsibilities.
"It is also vital that we respond appropriately and factor in future cutbacks amounting to over £7 million over the next four years.
“When taking into account the £24m of savings already made, a further minimum saving of £7m represents a very significant challenge and one which will lead to changes in the way policing is carried out in North Wales.
“We have made the decision not to draw upon our reserves because of the need to safeguard future policing by investing in much-needed new police stations at Wrexham and Llandudno and by continued recruiting to maintain front line numbers which would otherwise be reduced by retirements.
"As a result I am satisfied we will be able to police North Wales effectively although it will be a greater challenge.
"In future we will need to achieve even greater value for money and there is more work to be done in terms of collaborating more with other forces to ensure we make the best use of the resources at our disposal.
“The latest cuts do not include a reduction in Police Community Service Officers as was originally anticipated and this increase of two per cent does give North Wales Police the balance between protecting the service and affordability.
“I have held discussions with the Chief Constable who has confirmed that the increase provides a budget to enable the operational delivery of the policing service in 2016/17.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Forum to discuss county's tourism priorities

The priorities for Denbighshire as a tourist destination will be high on the agenda of the county’s  next Tourism Forum meeting, taking place in early March.
The Denbighshire Tourism Forum meeting at the Oriel House Hotel, St Asaph on Thursday, March 3 will allow tourism businesses to agree the priorities for Denbighshire’s Destination Management Action Plan in 2016-17.
The forum’s guest speaker will be Melanie Sensicle, Programme Delivery Director, Northern Tourism Growth Fund, VisitEngland.
There will also be an opportunity to update delegates on tourism-related activity since the previous Forum held in October.
* To book a place at the Fourm, please e-mail: or telephone 01824 706223 by February 11th, together with details of any dietary or access requirements.
Registration for the event will take place from 10.30am ~ Forum starts at 11am ~ Lunch and networking at 1.30pm.

Falklands veteran on mission to sell North Wales

* Jim Jones, with Llandudno in the background, is now managing director of North Wales Tourism. 
A Falklands veteran with years of experience with local authorities is on a new mission to sell North Wales to the world.
Jim Jones spent eight years with the Welsh Guards and was badly burnt during the Falklands War. 
After leaving the forces he worked in local government - eventually heading up the tourism and communities department at Conwy Council.
Now he has taken the role as managing director of North Wales Tourism, the largest destination management organisation in Wales.
Talking about his career, Jim, 51, originally from Llandudno, said: “From a very young age, when I was a member of the army cadets in Llandudno, I wanted to join the military.
“I was proud to eventually serve for eight years in the Welsh Guards and, amongst other places across the world, I served in the Falklands where I was involved in the war with Argentina in 1982.
“I was one of the Welsh Guardsmen aboard the landing ship Sir Galahad when it was bombed by the Argentines.
“I was quite badly burned.
“After recovering from this injury I continued to serve with the regiment but after being hurt again during a training exercise, I left the army.
“I spent many years working for local authorities.
“I am passionate about caring for the community I live and work in, which led me to working with local authorities.
"I became Head of Strategy, Performance and Projects for the London Borough of Redbridge and after 18 months in that job I came back to North Wales and spent eight years heading up the tourism and communities department at Conwy Council.
“I learned then the tourism adage that ‘if it’s a great place to live then it’s a great place to visit’.”
He said leaving the authority was a tough decision.
“I loved my job with Conwy Council because I love working for the community, so it had to be something pretty special to prise me away from that – and the job I have now,” said Jim.
“As managing director my overall role and aim is to put North Wales firmly on the tourism map, both nationally and internationally.
“North Wales Tourism is a movement of like-minded people in the tourism business who see the benefits of belonging to a regional brand, which is North Wales.
“Ours is an organisation that is not supported by any government money and is run for the benefit of its members.”
He added: “Our membership is currently 1,000-plus, and growing, and members come from all sectors of the tourism trade, including hoteliers, attraction providers and many others.
“Some have been with the organisation for 20-odd years.
“My average day is spent engaging with tourism businesses, putting together marketing packages and generally representing North Wales Tourism to other organisations.
“I like to say that if you give me just five minutes in a room with someone I can sell North Wales to them.
“My mission over the next 12 months is to bring the tourism industry in North Wales together, so we can collectively promote North Wales’s spectacular beauty.
“We have diversity of landscape, heritage, culture and language, quality food and drink, fantastic accommodation, and the huge investment that is being put into our adventure and family attractions.
“These are putting us on the map as one of the best adventure tourism destinations in Europe.
“Another key project is the development of our North Wales Tourism Hospitality Academy.
“This academy will provide solid links between universities and colleges and the industry, to make sure we are equipping employees of the future with the skills they will need to meet the expectations of future visitors.”
The organisation is currently based in the West End of Colwyn Bay but is moving into new offices in the centre of the town to establish a North Wales Tourism HQ.
Jim said: “We have 20 staff but we are looking to increase our membership and expand our presence by opening more drop-in centres across the region.
“That could mean more job opportunities.”
He added: “We are the largest destination management organisation in Wales, we have been going for 25 years and have a membership that is growing. I think that makes us unique.”
Jim also paid tribute to his predecessor at the group.
He said: “Esther Roberts did a tremendous job in the 15 years she was with the organisation.”

Monday, January 25, 2016

Police looking for speed-gun volunteers

The word has gone out to members of the local Neighbourhood Watch that North Wales Police are looking for volunteers to help deter speeding motorists across the region.

Launched in time for National Road Safety Week, Community Speed Watch aims to educate drivers about the dangers of speeding, whilst addressing concerns of local residents about cars speeding through their neighbourhoods.

The initiative is a partnership approach between the community, the police and the local authorities which is already running successfully in other police force areas.

“Community Speed Watch gives local people the ability to actively get involved in road safety. It can be set up in any village, small town, or urban area, governed by either a 20, 30 or 40 miles per hour speed limit,” said Sergeant John Roberts from GoSafe, the Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership.

“Motorists who speed through residential neighbourhoods are very often unaware of the impact their actions have on local residents, or the danger they pose to other road users and pedestrians and this is something we are working with communities to address.”

Full training will be given and volunteers on the scheme will visit known speeding hotspots within their own communities and will use hand-held speed guns to capture the speeds of oncoming vehicles.

Details of those vehicles will be collated and relayed back to North Wales Police, who then issue a letter to the owners warning them that they have been spotted.

Persistent offenders will receive up to two warning letters, and on a third occasion, offenders can expect further action by police.

Sgt Roberts added: “We are looking for local residents, who are willing to volunteer a small amount of time each week to monitor speeds with speed detection equipment.

“If you have good communication and interpersonal skills then we’d love to hear from you. Equally you will also benefit by gaining experience of liaising with a variety of individuals and you’ll have a raised awareness and insight into the work of the police.

“Our aim is to spread the message that our community simply won’t stand for speeding motorists and hopefully, together, we can bring down the average speed of cars on our roads.”

* For more details,  contact the North Wales Police Recruitment Department via 01492 804699, or e-mail

Further information including the application form and post profile is available via the North Wales Police website

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Gala dinner supports air ambulance

* The Chain Bridge Hotel, scene of the February 27 gala dinner.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Wales Air Ambulance a gala dinner will be held at the Chain Bridge Hotel in Llangollen on Saturday February 27, starting at 7pm.

The evening, hosted by supporter Ron Hughes, will feature a speaker, musical entertainment and a raffle with all proceeds going to the Air Ambulance.

Tickets, priced at £30, are available by emailing the host at,or calling 07780 668781.

Big Top thrills come to Corwen

* Circus skills workshops have come to Corwen.

The thrills of the Big Top have come to Corwen with a circus skills workshop.

Running for the next five weeks at Canolfan Ni,  it’s being ring-masterminded by Panic Circus and is aimed at anyone, young or old, interested in learning skills associated with the famous travelling shows.
Eliot Maddocks – aka Elmo Panic – said: “We have equipment to fit everyone , whether they would like to learn to juggle, unicycle or tightrope work, spin diablo or balance on a ball,  hola or stilt walk.

“Come along, all smiles and giggles are completely free of charge but there is a small charge to cover the hire of the room.”

Panic Circus is a new-wave, non-animal circus and clown theatre will plays to audiences around the country. 

* For more details, go to:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Candidate gets update on HSBC branch closures

Simon Baynes, Welsh Conservative Assembly Candidate for Clwyd South, met with representatives of HSBC last Thursday.
And he says they agreed to his suggestion that the bank should attend Chirk Town Council and Ruabon Community Council meetings to discuss the branch closures.
The meeting with HSBC was also attended by County Cllr Joan Lowe (Penycae and Ruabon South) and County Cllr Terry Evans (Chirk South) and the depth of concern of the two communities about the branch closures was strongly communicated to the bank, says Mr Baynes 
* Simon Baynes.
The meeting also focused on discussing the 30 key questions raised by people who attended the recent public meetings on the closures in Chirk and Ruabon and by over 350 residents who replied to Mr Baynes’ Community Banking Survey.
According to Mr Baynes, HSBC said they are going to provide more detailed answers to the 30 questions and agreed that more work needs to be done on ensuring a robust service is offered by the Post Office.
He said: “I am pleased that HSBC immediately agreed to attend the Chirk Town Council and Ruabon Community Council meetings, hopefully on Wednesday next week.
"In a difficult situation like this, it is extremely important that local residents and businesses have as much opportunity as possible to express their concerns and ask questions.
"HSBC now has the 30 key questions about the branch closures which were raised at the two recent public meetings and we look forward to their detailed answers to these questions.
"Full, open and transparent communication is vital and I would urge people to contact the bank directly with their concerns.
"You can email Martin Lyons, Area Director, Business Banking for North Wales), on or ring Nikki Sears, Wrexham Branch Manager, on 03455 847024.  If you have problems, contact me on and 07880786573 and I will contact HSBC on your behalf.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

AM praises Ysgol Bryn Collen's positive report

A primary school has been praised by its local Assembly Member after Estyn inspectors highlighted ‘a series of huge positives’.

Clwyd South AM Ken Skates said the report on Ysgol Bryn Collen in Llangollen was ‘one that everyone connected with the school and the wider community can be proud of'.

Inspectors noted that the majority of pupils make good progress and are well-behaved.

They rated both the school’s performance and its prospects for improvement as ‘good’.

Mr Skates (pictured) said: “The report highlights a series of huge positives for the school, and great credit must go to the leadership of headteacher David Coffey over the past decade, as well as his dedicated team.

“The inspectors saw that the children enjoy imaginative learning experiences that provide challenging opportunities for them to develop their skills, and it’s also extremely encouraging that they note that pupils with individual needs receive effective support in an inclusive and welcoming community.”

The report is also positive about the school’s future, stating that the headteacher and senior leaders have an ongoing commitment to raising standards and work closely and effectively with staff, with a shared understanding of the priorities for improvement.

Mr Skates said: “The staff have the support of a knowledgeable governing body, who play a strong role in school life, and the Estyn team also highlights a rigorous process of self-evaluation which underpins the school’s plans for improvement.

“Another aspect which is very pleasing is that in these times of huge UK Government cuts to public funding and to Wales, Mr Coffey and the governing body monitor the school’s finances efficiently and make good use of all available funding.”

Mr Skates added: “This is a great report and a wonderful way for Ysgol Bryn Collen to start 2016. It’s one that everyone teachers, pupils, parents and everyone connected with the school and the wider community can be proud of.”

Ysgol Bryn Collen has 170 pupils and Mr Coffey has been headteacher since 2005.

Major A5 roadworks due to start on Tuesday

* The A5 through Llangollen will be resurfaced during major roadworks. 

Major roadworks to resurface the of main A5 road through Llangollen are due to begin next Tuesday.

County Cllr Stuart Davies has been given details of the scheme, being promoted by the Welsh Government and the North & Mid Wales Trunk Road Agency, by the works department at Denbighshire County Council.
He has been told that the aim of the works is to replace the worn-out upper carriageway surface throughout the length of the A5 in the town, from the western 30mph limit to the eastern 30mph limit.
The work is expected to last for six weeks and, in order to minimise disruption, will start at around 7.30am and continue well into the evening, perhaps up until midnight, Cllr Davies has been informed.
The existing carriageway will be removed during the daytime, to around 4pm, with the new pavement being laid from 4pm.

Cllr Davies has been warned there will be “unavoidable noise” from heavy plant moving around and reversing between these times.
He has also been informed that the Welsh Government has released further funds, so the contractor will be employed to renew the carriageway surface to the west for 650m beyond the 30mph limit towards Berwyn.

This will be completed following the works within the town, but within the overall six-week period stated previously.

County explains landfill spending position

The amount spent by Welsh councils on landfill has fallen by more than 23% in the last four years, according to figures obtained by BBC Wales this week.

The total weight of landfill has dropped from 641,000 tonnes in 2012/13 to 450,000 tonnes in 2014/15 - a 30% fall in three years.

But while most councils’ spending on landfill went down, Denbighshire’s rose by seven per cent, from £1,324,000 in 2011-12 to £1,424,000 in 2014-15.

Alan L Roberts, the county council’s senior technical officer (waste), said: “The bottom line is that it isn’t a very good measure statistically and it is quite a complex issue. The main thing though is that the 22 Welsh local authorities were starting from different positions.

“ In 2011 Denbighshire recorded a recycling rate of 57%. This was the highest in Wales and so Denbighshire was already landfilling relatively little of its waste, so the county reduced its landfill costs by recycling at high levels before the BBC survey period commenced.

“ By April 2011, Denbighshire had procured some of the lowest landfill disposal costs of all the 22 Welsh local authorities which again means these cost reductions are not included within the BBC survey period.
“In April 2011, the standard rate of Landfill Tax increased to £56 per tonne, the rate currently stands at £82.60 per tonne showing how the unit costs of landfill have increased substantially during the survey period, i.e. there was a very significant upward pressure on landfill costs over the period.
“ The way councils disposed of non-recyclable rubbish during the survey period changed substantially. In 2011, Denbighshire sent 100% of its non-recyclable rubbish to landfill but by 2015 this had changed and only around 50% was sent to landfill; the other 50% was incinerated. Other councils, with suitable facilities available locally, are able to send 100% of their non-recyclable rubbish for disposal by alternative means.”
He added: “Whether it is landfilled or incinerated, there is still a significant cost of disposing of non-recyclable rubbish but the BBC survey centred solely on landfill.
“Councils that the BBC found have reduced their landfill bill between 2011 and 2015 will still be paying to have waste incinerated or treated by other means.
“The BBC survey shows that the Landfill Tax, which will soon become one of the taxes for which the Welsh Government will assume control, is still a massive financial burden on councils despite greatly reduced quantities of waste being sent to landfill.”

Ross is bloomin’ thrilled with his lead role

Rehearsals for Llangollen Operatic Society’s forthcoming production of Mel Brooks’ smash hit musical The Producers are now well underway.

With just weeks to go until opening night, the cast and crew are getting excited and no-one more than society stalwart Ross Wilson, who will take the lead role of nervous accounts clerk turned producer, Leo Bloom. 

Ross’ passion for the stage started at a very young age when he joined the society’s junior section as a five year old.

* Ross Wilson as Sweaty Eddie in Sister Act. 
He remained a member of the Young Uns’ right up to age of 17 and during that time undertook a variety of roles, culminating with the lead role in the group’s 2005 Production of Bugsy Malone. 

However, Ross’ interest in acting extended beyond amateur theatre.

After completing his GCSEs at Ysgol Dinas Bran, he went on to take a three-year course in Performing Arts at Yale College in Wrexham before continuing his studies to degree level at the International Film School of Wales at Newport University, where his hard work earned him a 2:1. 

After a few years spent travelling and working in the USA and France, Ross finally returned to his home town and re-joined the Operatic Society again last year for whom he played the role of police officer Sweaty Eddie in their production of Sister Act, which won much local acclaim and was a sell-out almost every performance. 

Ross said: “I am thrilled to be playing the role of Leo Bloom and The Producers is a show I have always wanted to be in. I think it’s the high energy comedy that hooks me in and with the character of Leo, this energy and comedy really comes out."
The Producers will be staged at Llangollen Town Hall from April 12-16, starting at 7.30pm and with a matinee performance starting at 2.30pm on Saturday April 16.

* Tickets are now available online at: Booking early is recommended.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Renew garden waste sub now, says council

Denbighshire Council is reminding residents to renew their annual subscription to the garden waste collection service.

Households sign up and pay an annual subscription to have their garden waste collected and subscriptions can be renewed up to 12 weeks before they come to an end.

Over 16,500 households are currently signed up to the scheme, which is over 50% of eligible households in Denbighshire.

Residents can find out when their subscription is up for renewal by typing their postcode at:

Householders that have opted in to the service receive a collection calendar for the fortnightly service and a bar-code sticker for their green bin, or bar-coded tags where garden waste is collected in bags.

The following garden waste goes in your green wheelie bin or green dumpy sack: grass cuttings, garden prunings, branches and twigs, leaves, bark, flowers and plants.

The council will not empty green dumpy bags or green bins which contain; soil, general household rubbish or food products.

Garden waste can also be disposed of through recycling parks, free of charge. Some garden wastes can be shredded and returned to the soil as a mulch or composted at home either on a traditional compost heap or a home composter.

Denbighshire's introduction of charges for garden waste collection followed a significant reduction in its grant from the Welsh Government.

The council set an annual charge of £24 to empty its standard 140 litre green garden waste bin every two weeks with an option to have a second bin for an extra £12. There is a £2 discount if you renew online. There is an equivalent service in place for residents who use the Council's green dumpy sacks for garden waste.

If you aren't already signed up for this service and wish to do so, you can sign up on<>  or, alternatively householders can make payment by telephone on 01824 706101 (or 01824 706100 for Welsh speakers) or by calling in at any of the Council's One Stop Shops.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

MP writes to bank boss over branch closures

Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones has written to HSBC Regional Director Jonathon Byrne, posing a series of detailed questions on the bank's proposals to close its branches in Ruabon and Chirk.

Ms Jones (pictured) said: "I have been working very closely with community representatives and a large number of constituents to produce this letter. We demand answers.

"We want HSBC to keep both branches open. We are all dismayed by how the UK Government has weakened a previously agreed 'banking protocol' so that there is now no requirement to keep open the last bank in every community.

"However, we are also appalled at HSBC's appalling treatment of loyal customers in our local area. We call on them to re-think their dreadful decision.

"The letter we have produced is the result of many long conversations, emails, letters and points made at local community meetings. We ask detailed questions about a whole range of matters - including business banking; face-to-face service provision; ATM (cashpoint) facilities; customers who do not use the internet; community groups; and the lack of existing Post Office provision. We also call on HSBC to reveal statistical details about the number of transactions carried out locally."   

The letter ...

Dear Mr Byrne,
I am appalled that HSBC has stated its wishes to close the long established HSBC branches in Ruabon and Chirk. As you will know, both branches fall within my constituency and I have been contacted by many constituents who are deeply concerned about the closures.
Both branches have long been an important part of the community and local residents have relied upon, and continue to rely upon, the services that these branches provide.
As the representative Member of Parliament for both Ruabon and Chirk, I know the impact that these closures will have on local businesses and how they will be affected by not having the physical presence of a bank. Though I recognise that there has been an increase in internet banking in recent years, the reality is that branches are still a fundamental part of our communities.
Many constituents are concerned about the option of moving to Wrexham and how eas y it will be to access their finances. The Wrexham branch is already heavily mechanised and loyal customers in both Ruabon and Chirk have appreciated and needed the face-to-face service that has been provided. Many customers have been loyal to the branches for many years.
Can you provide numbers that show that transactions have fallen? Can you provide information on how many accounts are held at both branches? Following the closures of Cefn Mawr, Llangollen and Rhosllannerchrugog branches, how many accounts were served by these two branches and will those accounts now all be transferred to Wrexham? Please provide figures to show why you consider Ruabon and Chirk branches to be no longer commercially viable.
I have liaised with many community representatives and a large number of constituents and I would like to raise the following questions directly on their behalf:
1.    What provisions will be made available to business customers? Both branches current ly serve a large number of diverse local businesses. Local business customers will be forced to endure addition costs travelling to Oswestry or Wrexham on a daily basis. What will HSBC do to ensure that business customers in Ruabon, Chirk and the wider area are not directly affected by these closures? This also applies to customers running charitable organisations and local groups in both areas.
2.    What is HSBC’s current plans for ATM availability? As you will know, they provide a vital local amenity and the nearest free cash point is not for a number of miles. Will there still be ATMs available for loyal customers who have used the ATMs for a number of years?

3.    With regards to Post Offices, both local Post Offices have an extremely limited service in terms of access to finances. How has this been considered by HSBC?

4.    After closures such as this, customers have been known to be the target of telephone scams (phone calls to local people claiming to be from the bank about the moving of accounts). What is HSBC doing to do to ensure communication with their customers is efficient and clear?
5.    Both branches are situated in prominent community buildings. If HSBC goes ahead with this appalling decision, is there a plan for the future of either building?

6.    There is still a large proportion of the community who do not use internet or telephone banking. How will HSBC ensure that these members of the community, many of them long standing, loyal customers, are not cut off completely from these banking services? Some residents, who despair at HSBC’s proposals, have asked that if they do go ahead will mobile banking be provided? They also ask if training will be provided to show customers how to use internet banking if they have not done so before?
I would like to ask directly what HSBC’s commitment is to villages and small towns in Wales. With so many closures in my constituency and across North Wales, I am appalled by the lack of commitment that HSBC has shown to local customers who have been loyal for many years. How long have these closures been discussed? Why have these local communities not been approached sooner? HSBC absolutely must consider the implications that any closure would have on our local communities and must rethink these inexcusable proposals immediately.