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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Police boss cracks down on drugs gangs and child abuse

* North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.
A police boss has vowed to crack down on drugs gangs and child sexual exploitation after his proposed 38p a week rise in the cost of policing was approved.
Among the other priorities revealed by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones are tackling domestic abuse, cybercrime and modern day slavery.
Mr Jones was speaking after the 7.7 per cent increase, one of the lowest in England and Wales, was given the green light by the North Wales Police and Crime Panel.
According to the commissioner, it will enable him to invest in front line policing by recruiting an extra 34 officers and six staff on top of the 90 additional officers and staff taken on since he was elected in 2016.
The UK Government gave special dispensation to forces to charge an extra £24-a-year for Band D properties and most forces are expected to accept the opportunity to take the maximum after years of austerity, allied to the necessity of pumping more cash into police pensions because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
But at £19.98 former police inspector Mr Jones’s increase is well below the £24 ceiling.
He said: “North Wales is still one of the safest places in the UK but that doesn’t mean we don’t face challenges and many of these are in new forms and we have to be ready to adapt to them.
“The fact is that a great deal of crime committed today happens online and we are very aware now in North Wales that our frontline is now online.
“But we are also seeing the use of county lines by city drug gangs to infiltrate areas like North Wales by coercing and exploiting children and young adults to build up their drug supply networks.
“I believe police resources should be concentrated on targeting the organised criminals who are responsible for peddling drugs and not their helpless victims."
Since his election in 2016 Mr Jones has presided over increases in staffing by North Wales Police while the Force has faced real terms cuts in its budget and he added: “It’s vitally important that we set the precept at the right level to provide an effective and efficient police service that delivers value for money.
“I have worked closely with the new Chief Constable and his team to decide on the level of budget needed to deliver the priorities in my Police and Crime Plan which aims to reduce threat, risk and harm by identifying the most vulnerable people in society. I will do everything in my power to protect them. 

"Crime is evolving and as a police force we have to change to deal with new threats like modern slavery, human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, with the threat posed by online paedophiles.”
As part of his commitment to consultation, Mr Jones has again carried out an online survey of council tax-payers in North Wales with nearly 2,000 people responding, an increase of over 50 per cent on the previous year.
More than 1,000 of them backed an increased in precept of 37p or more with a third in favour of a much higher increase of 50p a week.
It also showed “overwhelming support” for the priorities in Mr Jones’s Police and Crime Plan which sets out the strategy for policing North Wales.
It all comes against the backdrop of £31 million in savings forced on North Wales Police since 2011 and a real-terms cut of £2 million in the annual grant from the Home Office for the coming year.
In total the North Wales Police budget for the coming year is £154 million and has been allocated so as to deliver the priorities of the commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.
Mr Jones added: “I have been encouraged by the public’s overwhelming support for my vision for improving the way the region is policed.
“The survey has shown that 90 per cent of those who responded are in favour of prioritising tackling organised crime and keeping neighbourhoods safe.
“It is important to consult with the public to find out what kind of a police force they want and what their priorities are.
“As well as consulting the public, I have had detailed discussions with the Chief Constable and his senior team who confirmed that a council tax increase of 7.74 per cent will enable much needed investment back into the front line following a decade of financial cuts and will support the best possible operational delivery of policing in North Wales.
“It strikes a proper balance between affordability for council tax payers and ensuring the Force can continue to be an efficient and effective force.
“Four and a half per cent of the increase was needed just for a standstill budget which would have meant that the force was unable to cope with the growing demand generated by new and emerging crime.
“We are facing new and increasing challenges so the force must evolve and adapt and despite the swingeing cuts of recent years, we continue to invest in our frontline, making us fit for the future.”
Chief Constable Carl Foulkes said: “We have aligned our efforts as a force to deliver on the priorities set out in the Police and Crime Plan in order that we can ensure that North Wales continues to be one of the safest places in the UK to live, work and visit.
“As a result, we are focusing our approach on strengthening front line policing, increasing our proactive capacity and protecting vulnerable people through our Operational Improvement Programme.
“In addition to the extra personnel we have recruited since 2016, we will  have an additional 30 investigators who will be a major asset as we tackle the new and emerging crimes we need to concentrate on.
“Over the past decade North Wales Police has absorbed £31 million in austerity cuts and we are now having to be even smarter in the way we operate.
“As well as making the most of the diminishing budget at our disposal, we are working more closely with partners so we are making the best use of our joint resources.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Family's tribute to Llan resident Malcolm Twigg

* Malcolm Twigg in his Llangollen male Voice Choir blazer.
A family member has prepared this special tribute to Malcolm Twigg, the well-known and passionate member and promoter of Llangollen Male Voice Choir, who died earlier this week.

Mal grew up in the valleys of South Wales where he was looked after as a child by the grandmother he always spoke very highly of.
They lived in a converted railway carriage. Mal was sent as a young boy to Aberfan during the terrible disaster of the mud slide in 1966 to help serve hot drinks to the people working non-stop on searching.
As he grew up he turned into a very promising rugby player playing at a high level until a typical shoulder injury put a stop to his career.
In his early 20s Mal was involved in a head-on collision with a lorry in which he was very lucky to survive.
He lost the sight in one eye, and was in hospital for a few months with spinal and head injuries.
Mal met his partner Jan in Llanelli, the town where they ended up living.
It was Jan’s dream to return to Llangollen with Mal to show him around the town where her grandmother and mother had lived.
During this short break away from Llanelli Mal and Jan were standing outside the house in Princess Street where Jan’s family had once lived. They began talking to the current owner who told them it was available to rent and they moved to Llangollen almost straight away.
Mal loved the scenes Llan has to offer and will be remembered by many for posting so many of his pictures on the Llangollen Facebook page.
He enjoyed his walks in the fresh air along the river, took great pride in his flowers and loved to feed the birds. His bird table was never empty.
His biggest passion was Llangollen Male Voice Choir, which he worked very hard to promote, advertise and grow, winning respect and some great friendships along the way. His work and passion for the choir will be missed greatly.
Mal was a man with a heart of gold who would do anything for anyone. He stood strongly by his word.
His final post on the Llangollen Facebook page was: "What a beautiful town we live in."
He will be greatly missed by family members Jan, Ricky, Thom, and Dave Rutherford.

Festival team hands over big cheque to air ambulance

* Christmas Festival team members hand over the cheque to the Wales Air Ambulance crew. 

Members of the committee behind the annual Llangollen Christmas Festival have handed over almost £2,000 in donations to the Wales Air Ambulance.

They went along to the ambulance base at Mid Wales Airport in Welshpool to meet paramedics, doctors and pilots manning the lifesaving helicopter which flies from there on missions across the country.
And they presented them with two cheques – one for £1,000 which was the proceeds of last year’s festival at the end of November and the other for £950, the cash collected by festival committee chair and Llangollen town councillor Austin Cheminais on his appearances with Santa during the festival season.

The group was then given a closer look at the banks of hi-tech medical equipment packed in the helicopter’s fuselage.
Wales Air Ambulance covers the whole of Wales every single day.
Each year its fleet of helicopters attend around 2,500 missions, covering countryside, towns and cities. This includes miles of Welsh coastline and mountain ranges.
Wales Air Ambulance prides itself that it can be there for anyone in Wales within 20 minutes and brings a mobile A&E direct to patients.
Its team of critical care consultants and practitioners has some of the most pioneering equipment and skills in the world, including blood products and techniques developed in the armed forces. This means that patients receive advanced care before they even reach hospital.
The air ambulance is funded by the people of Wales and relies entirely on the public’s support to help keep the helicopters flying.
The charity does not receive direct funding from the government and does not qualify for National Lottery funding.
It therefore needs to raise £6.5 million every year to operate the service, with each mission costing an average of £2,500.
Cllr Cheminais has raised many hundreds of pounds for the air ambulance over the past few years as a way of saying thank you for the way the Midlands helicopter zoomed in to airlift him to hospital back in 2010 after he was run over twice by a delivery van in the car park of the school in Walsall where he was then headmaster.
He said: “All our air ambulances do a fantastic job of and I am delighted that, once again, we have been able to support the charity with money raised at the Llangollen Christmas Festival.
“It was also very interesting for our committee members to get a first-hand look at the Wales Air Ambulance and chat to crew members about their vital role during our visit to Welshpool.”  

* Team members are briefed on the working of the air ambulance.

* Lifesaving equipment packed inside the air ambulance helicopter.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Pupils given chance to create ‘buzzing’ logo

Schoolchildren can create a ‘buzz’ about their work with the chance to design a new logo.

Denbighshire County Council is offering children aged 5-14 the chance to design the Council’s ‘Bee Friendly’ logo.

Last year the Council was awarded Bee Friendly status from the Welsh Government, a scheme which aims to make Wales a pollinator-friendly country.

The Council is working with schools and community groups to create bee and bug ‘hotels’, reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides and identify sites to improve for pollinators by planting wildflowers and sowing wildflower seeds.

Students are being asked to come up with a simple, eye-catching design to be used on all Bee Friendly sites and in publications and should include a pollinating insect like a bee or butterfly.

Cllr Tony Thomas, the council’s lead member for the Environment, said: “I’d like to wish all those who enter the competition the best of luck and I look forward to seeing the fantastic entries.

“Bees are vitally important to the eco system and as well as pollinating plants in gardens, parks and the wider countryside, they contribute to the wider environment. “Denbighshire becoming a Bee Friendly county is part of our work to enhance and protect the county’s environment.”

There are three age categories, 5-7, 7-11 and 11-14 and a winner will be chosen from each category, before an overall winner is selected.

Schools of category winners will be provided with assistance to create a ‘Bee Friendly’ area at their school.

The closing date for the competition is March 14 and to enter, send your designs to Denbighshire Countryside Services’ ‘Bee Friendly’ Logo Design Competition, Liam Blazey, Biodiversity Officer, Loggerheads Country Park, Ruthin Road, Mold, CH7 5LH.

* For more information contact 07787 741763 or

Monday, January 28, 2019

Composting workshop planned at Plas Newydd

A series of composting workshops are to be held across North Wales, including Llangollen, next month.

The workshops have been arranged by Friends of the Earth Cymru in conjunction with the Welsh Government and other organisations.

The local one will be at Plas Newydd on Sunday February 10, from 11.30am-3.30pm.

Other workshops are planned for Canolfan Ni in Corwen on February 27, from 11.30am-3.30pm, and at Prestatyn Men's Shed, from 10am-2.30pm.

* To book any of the workshops, contact Mair Davies on 07969 891683, or email:

Homes application for Tyn-Y-Wern site

A planning application has been submitted to the county council for the demolition of the former Tyn-Y-Wern Hotel on Maesmawr Road, Llangollen and the erection of 14 dwellings.
The plan, by Knights Construction Ltd, was validated last week and is due for consideration by the council.
A planning and design statement by consultants acting for the applicants says: “The proposed development would not materially alter the overall character of the area as the scale and density of the development reflects the existing ribbon style settlement pattern.
“The application site is located within the 40mph speed limit. The proposed access can achieve appropriate visibility in both directions.”   
A previous application, for 12 detached homes, was submitted for the site in October 2017.
* For further details of the current application, reference number 03/2018/1141, go to:

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Chance for greatest dancers to be on top of the world

* Dawnswyr Bro Cefni competing at Llangollen.

A new festival is to offer Wales’s dancing hopefuls a unique route into one of the world’s greatest cultural events – and the chance to compete for a share of £3,500.
In a ground-breaking partnership the inaugural Festival of Discovery on Anglesey in May will give 12 troupes of folk dancers the chance to perform on stage at this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
It’s the first time the Eisteddfod, founded in 1947, has allowed another event to act as a qualifier for its prestigious competitions which have helped launch the careers of world stars like Sir Bryn Terfel, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

The Festival of Discovery Wales will take place at the Anglesey Showground over three days from Thursday, May 30, to Saturday, June 1, and is really three events rolled into one combining adventure, culture and the great outdoors.
It chimes with the Visit Wales campaign which has designated 2019 as the Year of Discovery and includes a packed programme of music, dance, food, nature, science, adventure and evening entertainment as well as the chance to take up a glamping offer of luxury tented accommodation on site.
Folk dance will be an integral part of the cultural section with four competitions, Traditional Folk-Dance Group, Choreographed/Stylized Folk-Dance Group, Children’s Traditional Folk-Dance Group, and Cultural Showcase – with the top three in each class invited to Llangollen in July - as well as dance workshops to introduce dance to a new audience.
Wales’s very own king of clog dancers, Huw Williams, winner of dancing crowns at Wales’s National Eisteddfod and at Llangollen Eisteddfod, will be among those running dance workshops at the festival and he will also be a judge for the dance competitions.
Huw, 59, from Brynmawr, in Blaenau Gwent, has written songs for folk music legends Fairport Convention, performed with the chart-topping Ralph McTell and manages the acclaimed Welsh band Calan which includes his daughter, Bethan Rhiannon, also a Welsh clog dance champion.
He said: “Welsh folk music is enjoying a revival. It’s like watching a tornado starting and I think the same could happen to Welsh dance because it is quite unique.
“Welsh dance struggled to survive the religious revival of the 19th century with dance particularly affected and it used to be that no Welsh dance group could ever win a folk dance competition because none of their dances were traditional – they were all composed.
“When I started in the 1970s we had to develop our own dances, inventing new steps and that is a unique aspect of Welsh folk dance.
“I invented many of the steps and younger dancers have come along and taken dance along and they are much better and more inventive than me and I’m looking forward to seeing that on Anglesey.
“It should be a fantastic festival and a chance to celebrate our Welsh culture and language.”
Festival of Discovery organiser Davina Carey-Evans, managing director of Beaumaris-based Sbarc Event Management, said: “It’s very exciting to have a partnership with Llangollen Eisteddfod and to have Huw Williams involved.
“He is a real legend of Welsh dance and this is a real opportunity to showcase dance as an important and vibrant element of Welsh culture and the competitions give a chance for dancers from across Wales to earn a place at the Eisteddfod and perhaps feature on the stage on Saturday night competing for the Dance Champions of the World title.”
That’s something the Eisteddfod’s Acting Musical Director Edward-Rhys Harry is excited about and he said: “This partnership with the Festival of Discovery is a first for us and is about reaching out into the community and forging links with other cultural events.
“Dance is very important to us at Llangollen and we are very well represented from an international point of view and we hope this will encourage a stronger entry from within Wales, across all ages, no holds barred.
“We have the Dance Champions of the World on stage on Saturday night at the Eisteddfod and I hope to see not just representation from Wales but for them to go all the way.”
* Entries for the Festival of Discovery’s four dance categories, must be in by March 29, and details of how to enter, as well as full information on the three-day event, are on the website at
This year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod takes places from July 1-7, see website for further details,

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Rise in cost of policing is unveiled

* North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.

A police boss has unveiled plans for a 38p-a-week increase in the cost of policing in North Wales – less than the price of a packet of chewing gum.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones says the 7.74 per cent rise is needed to recruit 34 extra officers and six more staff to focus on tackling emerging threats like serious and organised crime, child sexual exploitation, cyber-crime, modern day slavery, domestic abuse and drugs gangs who prey on children and young adults.

Mr Jones is seeking the backing of the North Wales Police and Crime Panel for the proposed increase at their meeting next Monday (January 28).

The 40 new recruits will over and above the 90 officers and staff taken on since 2016 when Mr Jones, a former police inspector, was elected.

At the same time, the force has just started redeploying officers and staff as part of a major reorganisation.

As a result of the Operational Improvement Plan, there will be 30 additional front line investigators.

An online survey carried out the commissioner showed that 51 per cent of the 1,877 council tax payers who took part were in favour of an increase of 37p or more – with a third of them supporting a much higher increase of 50p and above a week.

The survey also showed “overwhelming support” for the priorities in Mr Jones’s Police and Crime Plan which sets out the strategy for policing North Wales.

It all comes against the backdrop of £31 million in savings forced on North Wales Police since 2011 and a real-terms cut of £2.8 million in the annual grant from the Home Office for the coming year.

This year the UK Government has given special dispensation to forces to charge an extra £24-a-year for Band D properties to combat the double whammy of austerity and the need for forces to pump more cash into police pensions because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

The planned hike in police precept element of the council tax in North Wales amounts to  a total £19.98 for the year and would be among the lowest of all the 43 constabularies in England and Wales. It is understood that most commissioners are planning to opt for the full £24 increase.

According to Mr Jones, the overall £154 million budget for 2019/20 was designed to deliver the priorities in his Police and Crime Plan.

He said: “In putting together my blueprint, I was encouraged that my vision for improving the way the region is policed has the overwhelming support of the people of North Wales.

“The online survey showed that 92 per cent of council tax payers want tackling organised crime to remain a priority and 91 per cent agree that keeping neighbourhoods safe is important, while 67 per cent want me to continue focusing on combating the blight of modern day slavery.

“As well as consulting the public, I have had detailed discussions with the Chief Constable and his senior team who confirmed that a council tax increase of 7.74 per cent provides sufficient budget for the operational delivery of the policing service in North Wales.

“I am confident that the proposed increase strikes a proper and prudent balance between affordability for council tax payers and ensuring North Wales Police has enough money to continue to be an efficient and effective force.

“Four and a half per cent of the increase is needed just for a standstill budget and would mean that the force was unable to cope with the growing demand generated by new and emerging crime.

“The nature of policing has changed hugely and we are facing new and increasing challenges so the force must evolve and adapt accordingly.

“In spite of having to absorb the swingeing cuts we have faced over recent years, we are investing in our frontline, professionalising our frontline and making us fit for the future.”

Chief Constable Carl Foulkes said: “We have an ambition to be the safest place in the UK and the proposed budget will ensure we are able to meet the many challenges that lie ahead, not least because of the new and emerging crimes that we need to focus on.

“Our communities still want to see visible and proactive police officers, and want the reassurance that we will be there for them when they ask for help.

“But there are hidden crimes, such as cyber-crime and online exploitation, as well as major threats from so called County Lines – drugs gangs who operate across borders, with children and young people being coerced, groomed and threatened with violence to take part in illegal activity across the region.

“These issues, coupled with ongoing budgetary challenges, which have seen us making cuts of around £30 million since 2011, mean we are having to look at every aspect of our service, and be even smarter in the way we operate.”

Friday, January 25, 2019

Council seeks information on dumped caravan

The county council wants to track down the person responsible for dumping a caravan in the countryside just outside Llangollen.

It's on the Green Lane /Three Trees track and has been there since last Friday night.

A spokesman for Denbighshire County Council said: "We have been made aware of the incident and are in the process of removing the caravan.

"Anyone with any information as to who is responsible for dumping the caravan can contact the council's customer services on 01824 706000."

Businesses served up top tips on customer service

* Representatives of Dee Valley businesses during the training session. 

Leading businesses from in and around Llangollen have been given some top tips on meeting international customer service standards.

They took advantage of an opportunity offered by the Llangollen & Dee Valley Good Grub Club to participate in Welcome Host Gold Customer Service training.

The course was made possible by Cadwyn Clwyd who receive funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Businesses who sent their staff on the course included Tyn Dwr Hall, Gales of Llangollen, ManorHaus, One Planet Adventure, Riverbanc, the Sun Trevor and ProAdventure.

The course was a full day leading to a City & Guilds qualification in customer service and covered how to resolve challenging situations to turn complaints into a positive experience and how to building lasting relationships that encourage repeat business and recommendations.

Showing the importance of customer service, it covered how a £10 transaction can lead to over £50,000 of follow-up business if handled well.

Pip Gale, owner and manager at Gales Wine Bar in Llangollen, said: “It was a fantastic opportunity that gave a vocabulary to things we just 'do'.

"I took a lot away from the course, including a new way to talk with my team about putting our values into action.

"I look forward to seeing what my staff members take away from it too."

Mathew Povey from Tyn Dwr Hall in Llangollen said: "The day provided a very good programme which has enthused me with some new ideas and methods which I will be able to put into action immediately. 

"I’m looking forward to sharing these ideas with the rest of the team at Tyn Dwr Hall.”

Robyn Lovelock, co-ordinator for Llangollen & Dee Valley Good Grub Club, said: “I’m delighted the training has been received so well.

"With all the participating businesses bringing decades of frontline customer service experience to the training, there was a lot of pressure to make sure it offered new information and new ways of engaging customers. T

"The strapline for our town is ‘Where Wales Welcomes the World’, so this was a great opportunity for businesses to check they are meeting world class standards. It will also be great groundwork for businesses planning to take part in the Denbighshire Ambassador programme later this year.”

Llangollen & Dee Valley Good Grub Club is a co-operative of independent businesses from the retail, hospitality, farming and food sectors in and around the Dee Valley.

It offers networking, training and events that aim to increase the availability of food from the region, to provide training and mentoring for local young people keen to work in the food and drink sector and to improve the quality of the visitor experience to the Dee Valley.

Information about the Denbighshire County Council Ambassador programme will be available online, with online certification launching later in 2019.

* For further information see, or contact Robyn Lovelock, Good Grub Club co-ordinator, on 07799896108 or

Sleak Seat ST closes hatch on boxy old estates

* The Seat Leon ST ... FR.

* The Seat Leon ST's load area.

Seat Leon ST road test by Steve Rogers

ESTATE cars aren't meant to be fun...or are they?

The days of rattley old boxes bought by people who needed to haul tea chests and sideboards - think they were mainly antique dealers - have been confined to history, in fact I can pinpoint the very year the estate car market was turned on its head.

It was 2000 and Alfa Romeo showed us the 156 Sportwagon, a car that was drop dead gorgeous with its rising waistline, shallow windows and sloping roof, just like a coupe. This was the start of a new breed and got rival car designers thinking outside the box.

Mercedes-Benz CLS, Honda Civic, Hyundai i40, are good recent examples, and even Volvo, the 'box' king, has joined the sporty estate club, although now most are called Sport Tourer, Sport Wagon or Sport Back. The emphasis on Sport tells the story.

Spanish car maker Seat is relatively new to the club and although the Leon ST is not as eye catching as the hatchback the sloping roofline gives it a bit of a racy look.

As part of the Volkswagen-Audi group the ST is cut from the same cloth as VW Golf and Skoda Octavia both of which have slightly more carrying capacity, as does a Peugeot 308 and Honda Civic, but we are talking small margins and Leon is a convincing story with the tailgate open.

So what do we need to look for in a good estate car? First up is a full width opening, no light clusters poking in from the sides, low loading sill, minimal intrusion from the wheel arches, and fold flat rear seats, not every car maker achieves that.

Here the back seats can be dropped by pulling levers in the side walls which is a thoughtful touch and saves a walk to the rear door.

Leon ST ticks all those boxes and the good sized boot does not cut into rear seat legroom which is plentiful, even for taller folk. In fact this is a generous five seat family car.

Where does the fun come in? The clue is in the title - FR. We had a bit of fun with Leon's full title - STTSIEVOFR - which looks like the jumble of letters from the TV game show Countdown.

Embarrassingly I could not tell my wife what FR stands for, she offered fast runner, very apt in this case. A call to the press office revealed Formula Racing which is one step away from Seat's ultimate hot shot, the Cupra models.

That said there is plenty of fun and excitement to be had from the FR. The suspension has been lowered a tad to sharpen handling and that works a treat. Mrs Rogers immediately moaned about the hard ride but she doesn't get that there has to be a compromise on comfort, and the ride is not that hard anyway.

So we have a car built for thrills, but can a 1.5 litre engine provide the performance back up? Too right it can.  This is Volkswagen's new high powered small petrol engine and combines performance, low emissions and economy.

As diesel continues to die a slow death VW has come up with a petrol engine that gets close to achieving the same strong response at low revs as well as good mid range pick up. It will never match a diesel on economy but this is clever stuff with two of the four cylinders closing when cruising and that saves fuel.

I averaged about 40mpg, well down on what the official figures predict, but I did enjoy the performance so a little more care should push that to 45-46mpg.

Seat can pick and choose from VW's parts bin so there are similarities with switches and layout, and while it is all very orderly and precise it is a touch bland although the FR benefits from shiny black and chrome dashboard highlights and soft red penlight strips along the door panels.

What do you get for your £24k? A lot of safety features, which are all the rage these days, excellent LED headlights, an eight inch touch screen with navigation, mobile phone integration for Apple CarPlay, Mirror Link and Google Android, DAB radio and more.

Unfortunately Seat's touchscreen does not have the quick function keys either side of the screen, a sensible feature in the VW Golf, so you have to go into the system to select a function. At least the heating controls are clearly displayed switches.

The FR has front and rear parking sensors but for this money I would want a rear camera and even heated front seats.

And they could do with sorting out something that must irritate everyone. The two USB ports are tucked out of site at the back of a cubby in the centre console so trying to plug in a mobile phone charge lead is a real pain.

Apart from that go and buy one, you'll like it.

Leon ST EVO FR Sport
1.5 litre TSI; 148bhp
0-62mph 8.2secs; 134mph
55.4mpg combined
117g/km 1st year road tax £165
Insurance group 20

Thursday, January 24, 2019

AM challenges First Minister over prison figures

With figures showing that Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood (pictured) has challenged the First Minister over what action he plans to take to address this.

Raising the matter with Mark Drakeford yesterday he said: “Of course, we already know that the prison and probation service in Wales will be responsible for probation again from 2020 in Wales, with a focus on communities, community sentencing and rehabilitation.

"But, given that the Wales Governance Centre analysis found that under the Westminster criminal justice system, as it was earlier termed, the total number of prison sentences in England between 2010-17 dropped 16 per cent but went up 0.3 per cent in Wales, and that custodial sentences imposed by magistrates in Wales went up 12 per cent, what dialogue will you endeavour to have, perhaps, with the Judiciary and with the Magistracy, to establish their reasons within Wales for this, when I know, many years ago, in taking evidence in Assembly Committee, when similar geographical differences were found, they put a case to us that we were able to consider?” 

The First Minister replied: “Why rates have risen in the way they have in Wales is a complex matter. There is an increasingly punitive climate of opinion that some analysts point to. There are certainly changes to legislation. There were over 3,000 new offences put on the statute book in 10 years from 1997 to 2007. We in this Assembly have put fresh offences on the statute book in the work that we do.

"There are the impacts of sentencing guidelines and guideline judgments that have had the effect of increasing length of sentences, quite certainly, and there is the issue of, as some sentencers put it, a collapse in confidence in the probation service. I said in answer to Leanne Wood that we welcomed strengthening probation, building confidence, in the consultation with the Ministry of Justice last summer. We'll do what we can within that, but want to go further.”

Mr Isherwood added: “Such a difference in delivery between England and Wales within what is a shared criminal justice system provides yet another reason why the calls for devolution of criminal justice by Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs must not be answered."

Official probe to be held into massive mountain fire

* The fire as seen from the town centre.

* County Councillors Melvyn Mile and Graham Timms on the Horseshoe Pass, scene of the fire last summer.

An official probe into the massive mountain fire near Llangollen last summer is to be held in March.

And the area’s two county councillors who called for it have welcomed he day-long evidence gathering meeting which will take place at the International Pavilion on Wednesday March 20.

The fire ripped through acres of moorland around Llantysilio and the Horseshoe Pass burning for six weeks in July and August.  

In September Llangollen councillors Graham Timms and Melvyn Mile called for the county council to hold an inquiry into the fire and its impact on the area.

As a result the council’s Communities Scrutiny Committee will hold the special meeting in March.

A letter to the councillors from committee chair Cllr Huw O Williams says: “We will be examining evidence from last summer’s fire on Llantysilio Mountain, near Llangollen, and its impact on the local area.

“For this purpose an evidence gathering a meeting of the committee will be held at the International Pavilion in Llangollen at 10am on Wednesday March 20. The meeting will have a morning and afternoon session and will be open to the public.

“The inquiry is not intended to apportion blame on any individual, service, organisation or group with respect of the fire or its management.

“Its aim is to understand what happened and learn lessons from the event in a bid to improve the management of similar incidents in future and minimise the disruption caused to nearby communities and businesses.

“At the morning session the committee will be examining evidence relating to the emergency services and other public organisations’ response to the fire along with the management of the incident.

“The afternoon session will be devoted to reviewing evidence relating to land management matters and the fire and incident management’s effect on local businesses, residents and communities.

“Representatives from various services, organisations, communities and businesses either involved or affected by the fire will be invited to give evidence at the meeting.

“In the meantime, the committee would also like to hear from individuals affected by the fire about their experiences during this time and the impact it had had on them, their businesses or community since.”

The letter adds that if anyone has photographic, video or written evidence they would like the committee to consider, they should send it to: Rhian Evans, Scrutiny Co-ordinator, Democratic Services, DCC, County Hall, Wynnstay Road, Ruthin LL15 1YN, or email to: by February 12.

Cllr Mile said: “We are keen that the response to the fire by North Wales emergency services, the Welsh Government and Denbighshire County Council is examined so that lessons can be learned to prevent such an event happening again.

“The fire caused devastation to the environment, flora and fauna as well as a prolonged effect on local farmers, businesses and communities. It is important that those affected by the fire will be given an opportunity to put evidence to the committee.” 

Cllr Timms said: “We asked for the committee to hold its meeting in Llangollen Pavilion to make it easy for those living near the fire site to attend. It is important that a full and detailed investigation is held.

“We have been working hard to get an important piece of evidence released by the Local Resilience Forum which is now expected very soon.

“Its report has been drawn up by the officers and emergency services involved in the response to the fire and we hope that it will help to enlighten us about the actual situation.

“There have been lots of rumours and misinformation about the fire and we need to be able to look at the evidence before jumping to conclusions.”