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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Zingiber's backing for community is celebrated in film

* Zingiber Wholefoods owner Chris Baker in the shop.

The way small Welsh businesses - including one in Llangollen - have supported their communities during the C-19 pandemic will be celebrated in film thanks to Wrexham Glynd┼Ár University’s Horticulture Wales project.

The project has commissioned a series of short films to celebrate the success of the businesses, and show the diverse range of ways that the businesses – each members of the project – worked to support communities across Wales during the March lockdown – and beyond.

The films feature businesses from right across Wales and their diverse stories show how horticulture-linked businesses of all kinds found themselves adapting their practices to meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Llangollen, Zingiber Wholefoods based in Bridge Street found the changes the pandemic wrought a major challenge – but ensured their friendly, customer-led shop was able to keep providing the personal touches which it prides itself on.

Owner Chris Baker said: “We kept going all the way through the pandemic, but had to adapt the way we work and interact with customers. 

"At first, we limited the number of customers in the shop to only two at a time but, once the March lockdown began, we stopped allowing customers in at all. Instead, they were served from a temporary counter in the shop doorway.

“Mostly customers would send in orders via email, text or telephone. We would put together what they wanted and they would call just to collect and pay.

“We soon learned who wanted smooth or crunchy peanut butter, and dark or light tahini, and who preferred everything organic where available!"

He added: "A lot of products – bags of flour in particular – were in high demand and so difficult to obtain reliably from our wholesalers. When even sacks of flour could not be bought from our usual suppliers, the local bakery came up trumps and were able to supply us.

“At one time we had locally grown salad and other vegetables but, sadly, they weren’t able to continue supplying us, so there’s a bit of a gap there.  We’d like to be able to fill it.

“It would be great to hear from local growers, local producers. We’re always willing to have a look at what you’re offering, and perhaps we’ll be able to stock it.”

Laura Gough, Head of Enterprise at Wrexham Glyndwr University, said: “We recognise the challenges faced by our members’ businesses over the past few months, and wanted to record these with a series of short films, highlighting their resilience and their response to the pandemic.

“Working together with FilmCafe, these films demonstrate how local growers, horticulturalists and producers have worked together, kept their communities safe and supplied Wales with local goods and produce.”

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “I would like to congratulate all of the producers and businesses from across Wales whose work has been highlighted thanks to this project.

“The determination and innovation they’ve shown in adapting to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic are characteristic of the resilient nature of this sector, along with the effort they have put in to support their local communities.”

Spicy Spanish motor is (almost) a Golf competitor

Seat Leon road test by Steve Rogers

Here's a question which often comes my way. Would you buy a Seat Leon over a Volkswagen Golf?

By now everyone interested in cars knows Seat is part of the VW-Audi empire and that Leon is a Golf in Spanish disguise because while it is designed and built in Barcelona all the mechanical bits come from Wolfsburg. 

It is also a common held belief that the Leon is better looking car than its German cousin on the basis that Spain is a country that sparkles with modern design ideas while Germany doesn't. More to the point Leon, and Seat cars in general, are less expensive than their Volkswagen counterparts.

For a long time Leon has been kept at arm's length from Golf because of its position in the VAG pecking order where VW is number two behind Audi while Seat more often than not is bottom of the pile behind Skoda. 

That means it has to wait its turn for the latest technology although judging by the level of sophistication in the new fourth generation Leon the gap is narrowing.

Sales, globally and in the UK, tell us Leon is never going to catch up with Golf even on a level playing field although it is still the brand's top seller and has been Spain's best selling car for the past five years. But with Seat concentrating on its three SUVs the hatchback might not be the flag bearer for much longer.

That is not to say Leon should be dismissed as old news. Anything but. This is the best engineered and best equipped model in its 21 year history and can command respect in the hatchback league particularly when it comes to cabin space, equipment level and engine choice, and it doesn't do badly for technology.

Switches are out. Digital screens and touchpads are in. Yes, there is a swanky digital cockpit for new Leon with 10 inch screens ahead of the driver and standing proud in the centre of the dashboard. The binnacle display is excellent as are the steering wheel controls which make selection as easy as flicking channels on a TV remote and there are lots of options.

The mini television screen in the centre is where you get connected, so plug in your mobile and see all your apps, emails etc along with everyday car stuff like radio, navigation and heating. 

Not the easiest of systems to fathom, it was a couple of days before I was comfortable with its ways which is longer than most cars I've tested this year, but I did not like the touch pad sound which is too loud and tinny, the gentle tick of the Golf's digital display is far more satisfying.

The general layout is not only functional it's stylish as well and the quality of materials all through the cabin get a big tick on Leon's report card as does space. Generation four has by 86mm and all that has gone into increasing back seat leg room which puts it near the top of the hatchback tree.

Boot space is pretty decent, too, but with such a big drop into the well the car needs a false floor for everyday use.

Seat has always been looked on as the sporty arm of the quartet with the FR badge signifying a hot model. Lowered sports suspension is the order of the day and sure enough superglue type grip and perfect poise through twists and turns make this Leon a fun car to drive.

Twenty years ago, or even just 10, I would have been champing at the bit to drive a Leon with the FR badge but this time I found the Leon's suspension too hard so am I just getting too old?

On anything other than smooth roads the thuds coming through the chassis when traversing potholes and even smaller road blemishes are just too severe. Seat should do better and this is an area where Golf does do better.

The VAG group's standout engine is the turbo charged 1.5 litre petrol and even with the lower 128bhp output it is still a slick performer, just lacking the low and mid range pick up of its 147bhp mate which is a better match for the FR model. A week's motoring returned an excellent 48mpg and low fifties on longer runs were the norm.

So what is my answer to the big question? Leon is still more stylish and less expensive to buy, but the Golf's digital cockpit and ride quality are ahead of the Spaniard. So I would choose a lower level Seat because it is better value for money without the harsh sport suspension, but a higher spec Golf because it is a brilliant all rounder.

Need to know

Leon FR

£23,515 (starts £19,855)

1.5 TSI EVO 128bhp

0-62mph 9.4secs; 130mph


126g/km. 1st tax £175

Insurance group 19

Boot: 380 litres


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Volunteers for revived coronavirus help group are thanked

The man who now helps run the highly successful Llangollen Coronavirus Help Group has sent out a message to local people who have volunteered to as it is revived to meet the new Covi-d19 threat. 

Town councillor and town crier Austin (Chem) Cheminais said: "Originally set up and managed by Cat Meade and Paula Lingard, and ably assisted by Mike Connolly, the Coronavirus Help Group wound down once lockdown ended and Cat and Paula had to go back to work. 

"When further restrictions were imposed on Denbighshire the operation was resurrected to provide help to people who could not or were frightened of leaving their homes to shop or collect prescriptions.

"A call was put out for volunteers. Once again Llangollen people volunteered to help.

"We want to thank all those individuals for their community spirit and generosity.  

"It makes you proud to live in such a beautiful and supportive town.  

"The take-up has been quite small largely because volunteers who gave support to people in the first phase have formed close relationships and are still helping out.

"If you need support or know of anyone who you think we could help you can contact: Austin Cheminais on 07813 761766, or email to:

Council informs businesses of firebreak Welsh Government grants

Denbighshire County Council is informing businesses in the county of grants being made available by the Welsh Government to help businesses survive the economic consequences of the national firebreak lockdown in Wales as a result of coronavirus (Covid-19).

The Lockdown Discretionary Grant and the Lockdown Non Domestic Grant are there to support businesses with immediate cash flow support to help them survive the economic consequences of the national firebreak lockdown in Wales. 

This includes supporting the costs of retaining staff where appropriate. 

The grant seeks to complement other Covid-19 response measures to support businesses, social enterprises and charitable organisations in Wales.

The application process is being launched across the whole of Wales tomorrow (Wednesday, 28 October).  

Businesses in Denbighshire are encouraged to visit the council’s website: from that date where the most up to date information about applying for the grants and the funding available will be found.

The application fund will close at 5pm on the 20th November 2020 or when the fund is fully committed.

Leader of Denbighshire, Councillor Hugh Evans OBE, who is also the Cabinet Lead Member for the Economy, said: “We have been pressing on Welsh Government to provide a financial package of support for businesses being affected by on-going restrictions.

“It is hitting the national economy hard  and the position is no different in Denbighshire. We’ve heard that from the businesses directly and many are desperate for some form of financial support that will help ease the financial burden.

“That is why we are encouraging businesses to visit the Council’s website from Wednesday where there will be details about eligibility criteria and get applying for financial support without delay, to see whether the support can help them survive and continue operating."

Virtual events highlight best of north Wales food

Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes has commended Clwyd South’s businesses and residents who will be taking part this week in virtual events as part of the “Taste North East Wales” event. 

Due to the current circumstances this year’s participants will showcase their ideas through a series of virtual events that members of the public are able to take part in and enjoy. 

Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7pm, two local North Wales producers, Beatriz Albo and Marina Midolo, will talk viewers through cooking their signature dishes from their home countries, followed by a Q&A session.

Then on Friday there will be a masterclass with head chef Grant Mulholland from The Hand at Llanarmon. 

Grant will be using locally produced lamb hogget skilfully cooked using a range of other local ingredients. 

After the masterclass, you can join owner Jonathan Greatorex for a live chat about the hotel's great food and commitment to local produce.

Simon Baynes MP said: “This is a great opportunity to showcase the wonderful food and culinary talent we have in Clwyd South. Whilst it is unfortunate that this year’s events can’t be in person, it is great to see the events still going ahead virtually.

"I wish everybody involved great success with the event. A lot of hard work goes into these events and it is great to see the community coming together and adapting to the current circumstances in such an efficient and imaginative way."

* See the website for more details and how to participate.

Work starts on county's first new council homes in 30 years

* An artist's impression of how the new council homes will look.

Work has started on the first new council homes to be designed and built for the Denbighshire area in 30 years.

Denbighshire Housing will build 18 two-bedroom and 4 four-bedroom semi-detached houses for social rent on land above Tan y Sgubor, Denbigh, for Denbighshire County Council.

The low carbon homes, which will be built and certified to the energy-efficient Passivhaus standard, are part of the Council’s target to provide 170 more council houses by 2022.

Work started on site on October 19 and the development is expected to be completed by autumn 2021.

The frames and walls for the new houses will be made off site in North Wales by Creating Enterprise, a subsidiary of Cartrefi Conwy, using the Beattie Passive Build system and the main contractor for the development is Brenig Construction.

Cllr Tony Thomas, Denbighshire’s lead member for Housing and Communities, said: “The council is delighted that work has started on these new council homes, the first to be designed and built for the county in 30 years, and we are pleased to be working with our partners on this project.

“Ensuring there is housing available to meet the needs of Denbighshire residents is a priority under our Corporate Plan.

“These homes will help meet the housing needs of residents by providing quality homes that are affordable as well as offering the highest levels of insulation to reduce energy consumption and energy efficiency to minimise carbon emissions and reduce household bills.”

The Welsh Government has provided funding through its Innovative Housing Programme to enable the Council and Creating Enterprise to work together on this new way of building homes.

The houses will have solar panels on the roofs and will use pumps to transfer natural heat from under the ground to keep them warm so they won’t need a gas supply.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Welsh Government to review lockdown rules with supermarket bosses

* Health Minister Vaughan Gething.

The Welsh Government will meet with retailers later to "review the regulations" on the sale of non-essential items in supermarkets to make sure the rules are being applied "fairly and consistently."

Speaking at a Welsh Government press conference, Health Minister Vaughan Gething acknowledged there had been confusion over the regulations.

Mr Gething said: "If there are anomalies we will look at whether the guidance needs to be revised and we will also strengthen it to make it clear supermarkets have discretion to sell to people who are in genuine need.

"We will take action today so that retailers understand that our rules already allow people in acute need to buy the basics."

Social care leader slams false positive Covid-19 test results

* Mario Kreft, chair of Care Forum Wales.

A social care leader has spoken of the growing alarm over the high rate of false positive Covid-19 test results that’s piling pressure on struggling care homes.

Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, revealed a survey of members had shown that nearly a third of care homes had experienced a test which had been a false positive in the previous fortnight.

Another problem adding to the rising anxiety, confusion and frustration in the sector was the fact that results were often too slow in coming back, with delays up to a week not uncommon, he claims.

Mr Kreft is so concerned about the situation that he has launched a new drive to Shield Social Care and Save Lives This Winter.

At the heart of the campaign is the call for the testing "shambles" to be sorted out so that the virus can be kept at bay as Wales enters a two-week firebreak national lockdown.

The survey by Care Forum Wales, which represents nearly 500 independent providers, revealed that with 29.6% of care homes across Wales had experienced positive results that re-tested as negative.

In reality, care bosses say the rate of false-positives far exceeds figures from the Welsh Government Technical Advisory Group which forecasts nine false tests in every 1,000 tests. 

On top of that the survey showed 28.2% of care homes had waited for at least one result after seven days while more than half (52.1%) had experienced at least one inconclusive result. 

Public Health Wales said they were unable to provide an answer to a Freedom of Information request to confirm the number times a positive test had been re-tested and found to be negative.

Mr Kreft said: “From the very beginning we’ve fought for a comprehensive and effective testing regime and now, many months on, care homes still face unacceptable delays for results which threaten the safety of staff and residents.

“Our own survey raises serious questions about the validity and reliability of current results with almost one in three homes experiencing false-positives, forcing healthy staff and residents to unnecessarily self-isolate.

“Understandably, it’s causing growing alarm, confusion and frustration among our members who have responded heroically to the challenges of saving lives during this pandemic.

“We are renewing our calls to the Welsh Government to tackle this situation with urgency as we head into winter with many homes already in lockdown.

“It is critical testing results are delivered fast to not only prevent the spread of this disease, but also so asymptomatic positive cases can be retested swiftly so homes do not face unnecessary restrictions or staffing shortages.

“This is not just about protecting social care. the vulnerable people we look after and our magnificent frontline staff.

“It’s also about the safe discharge of people from hospital into care homes so that they are safe and that the NHS can function without being overwhelmed this winter.

“People in the sector have worked tirelessly to keep this virus at bay. We stand with the NHS on the front line ready to do our bit,

“But we must be given the necessary support  so we can engage the sector and underpin the efforts of the NHS.”

Among the concerned members is Tony Lovell, who owns Llwyndyrys Residential Home in Llechryd, Ceredigion.

He said one of the problems care homes faced was the length of time it took to receive the results of the first Covid-19 test from the UK’s Lighthouse Laboratory diagnostic facility, which could be anything up to six days. 

After this, many care homes had found these results to be “false-positives” upon retesting with their local health board, he added.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Essential items may be "tweaked" says Drakeford

Rules banning shops selling non-essential items during Wales' firebreak lockdown will not be reversed, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said, reports the BBC.

On Sunday afternoon, Mr Drakeford said the implementation of the rules may be tweaked, but the "basic decision" behind the ban was the right one.

Supermarkets selling ban to be reviewed says First Minister

The ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items during Wales' lockdown will be reviewed after the weekend, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

The BBC is reporting this morning that pressure has mounted on the Welsh Government to reverse the decision to prohibit supermarkets from selling items such as clothes and microwaves.

The largest petition ever submitted to the Senedd has now passed 45,000 signatures.

Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government was ensuring "common sense is applied"

Supermarkets have been told they can only sell "essential" items and must close parts of their stores which sell products such as clothes, shoes, toys and bedding during Wales' 17-day "firebreak lockdown".

Hospice appeals for help to get through latest lockdown

* Chair of the board of trustees at Nightingale House Eluned Griffiths.

A hospice is appealing to the public to help it continue to provide free patient care for cancer patients and those with other life-limiting illnesses in this area.

Nightingale House Wrexham is encouraging more people to come forward and join its hospice lottery to inject much-needed cash into providing vital services for patients with chronic diseases including cancer, motor neurone disease and heart failure.

The hospice continues to improve its services and introduced a new direct referral service during the first lockdown. 

It also operates a 24/7 helpline for patients and their families who need support and guidance. 

As 80% of the hospice’s services are funded by donations and fundraising activities the Nightingale House weekly lottery is a major lifeline for generating income.

Last week’s announcement on an all-Wales lockdown until November 9 means all retail outlets and cafes have closed once again making the hospice's situation ever more precarious.  

Whilst Nightingale House was allocated a share of government cash to assist until previous income streams could be restored it did not receive all the funding it requires.

And it is unclear about what further money will be allocated to independent hospices in Wales during this latest national lockdown.

All face to face fundraising activities have either been abandoned or taken online due to the Covid-19 pandemic and as a result the lottery has become a beacon of hope for the hospice. 

Thanks to the generosity of almost 16,000 people who have already signed up the lottery raised £535,000 in 2019. It costs £3.4m per year to run Nightingale House.

Lottery manager Tracey Price said: “During these uncertain times playing the lottery in support of Nightingale House means so much to patients and their families as it is a vital source of income for us and provides consistency in our fundraising abilities to complement those organised events and other donations and fundraising efforts.”

Chair of the board of trustees Eluned Griffiths said: “The lottery has helped keep our heads just above water during the last seven months, providing essential cashflow for the hospice and remains a pivotal part of our fundraising, particularly as business support schemes disappear and we are left to face an uncertain financial future alone.

“The latest national lockdown for Wales means we will struggle once more as our overheads remain the same. 

"We appeal to the First Minister of Wales to release the rest of the funds promised to us earlier in the year, as so far we have only received approximately a third of these and also to ensure the charity sector is not forgotten during this uncertain period.

“We are so lucky to have wonderful supporters who are digging deep to help us get through this difficult period. If there are family members who already support the lottery we would urge them to encourage others to take part and take the message into their workplaces and tell colleagues and friends about the lottery’s positive impact on our hospice care.

“Encouraging more people to sign up would bring us a sense of relief and provide stability to all those who benefit from our services and our hard working staff who continue to provide the care and support that patients with chronic illnesses are able to access 365 days a year.”

The Nightingale House Lottery costs £1 per week with a cash first prize of £2,500, plus several other money prizes. To find out more contact the Lottery Team on 01978 316800.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

What the county council is doing to help during the lockdown

Denbighshire County Council is calling on the county’s residents to comply with the ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown introduced yesterday in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus cases across Wales.

Its leader Councillor Hugh Evans said: “Over recent weeks we have seen a significant increase in the number of cases of coronavirus across the whole of Wales and the Welsh Government has made it clear that urgent measures need to be taken to try and avoid going into a full lockdown.

“Now that we have clarity on the circuit breaker, we now need to make sure that we all play our part in working through the restrictions. 

“We fully recognise that some people may find the idea difficult, especially given the sacrifices made by people earlier in the year, but compliance is essential. We really need to do this to try and protect our most vulnerable in our communities.

“On top of the new restrictions, we must also continue to adhere to the social distancing measures, as well as wearing face masks to visit the essential shops and following stringent hygiene measures.

“The council and its partners will continue to remind people of the restrictions being introduced through local media, websites and social media feeds."

Information about the restrictions can be found on:

* The council says it is resuming its wellbeing checks on vulnerable residents during this new lockdown.

It will begin contacting people on the shielding patients' list from Monday, October 26.

Staff from the library service will be making calls to check on people’s wellbeing, to see if they need any help, and to check that they will be keeping warm over the winter. 

Any residents who are concerned about the legitimacy of these calls should hang up and call the Council back direct on 01824 706000. 

Cllr Bobby Feeley, the Council’s Lead Member for Well-being and Independence, said: “We want to reassure vulnerable residents that we will be resuming the wellbeing checks we carried out during the first lockdown.

“These calls will provide a service to those members of our community who need extra support during this difficult time.  

"During the first lockdown we contacted more than 5,000 people and were in regular contact with a majority of those. 

The council’s telephone befriending service, which is staffed by council employees and volunteers, including a number of county councillors, continues during this period.

* Work has been carried out by Denbighshire County Council officers with input from county councillors and town and community councils to map out a list of resources available during the Covid-19 outbreak across Denbighshire.

You can find the list at

The list contains information about local emerging groups and businesses across Denbighshire offering support including information about food deliveries, grocery services and support services. 

As well as community based information it also contains links to a variety of support agencies and networks which operate locally, regionally and nationally.

This list of key information will be updated on a regular basis and should you have any information or links that you feel would be useful to residents please email to:

Friday, October 23, 2020

Chancellor’s statement doesn’t go far enough says Finance Minister

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans (pictured) says the job support measures set out by the Chancellor yesterday are ‘a step in the right direction’, but warns that the level of support does not go far enough to guarantee a decent income for workers.

The Minister also expressed her disappointed at the news of a one-year spending review and called on the UK Government to put an end to its "stop-start approach" to handling public finances.

Rebecca Evans said: “Whilst the Chancellor's announcement is a step in the right direction, I am calling on the UK Government to ensure that under this new scheme employers will not be any worse off than they were under the Job Retention Scheme. 

“Throughout the Covid crisis, the package of support we have provided to businesses in Wales has been more generous than that in any other part of the UK. We are still working through the details of the announcement, but we anticipate that the support we will be providing to businesses who have to close as a result of the two week firebreak will still be more generous than that provided in England.”

The Minister continued: “We also need to see an end to the UK Government’s stop-start approach to handling public finances. This approach, coupled with a lack of multi-year investment, is deeply unhelpful and makes the task of managing our budgets an extremely difficult one.

“We need long term spending commitments from the UK Government to enable us to continue to protect the people of Wales from the worst impacts of the pandemic, and to help us better manage our public services and start to lay the foundations for our recovery.”

Fresh roadworks to start on Horseshoe Pass on Monday

Denbighshire County Council is advising motorists and residents in the south of the county about planned roadworks on the A542 at the Horseshoe Pass near Llangollen.

The road will be closed from Monday, 26th October for preparatory works, ahead of essential road surfacing works to take place. 

The road is expected to be closed for three weeks, but will be open for traffic over the weekends whenever possible.  

The area affected is between the quarry and the lay-by near the summit of the Horseshoe Pass.

Diversions are in place and will be signposted.

Councillor Brian Jones, Cabinet Lead Member for Waste, Transport and the Environment, said: “We have previously undertaken some works along the Pass to carry out some drainage works ahead of the main surfacing project.

“This work due to be carried out over the next few weeks is essential, as it will provide some quality improvement to the road surface.  

"We will try and minimise the disruption and we would like to thank motorists in advance for their co-operation and understanding."

Residents asked to exercise in local areas during lockdown

Denbighshire residents are being encouraged to exercise in their local areas during the upcoming lockdown.

As part of the Welsh Government’s ‘firebreak’ lockdown which starts at 6pm today (Friday) residents are asked not to travel to exercise or visit beauty spots in the county such as Loggerheads and Moel Famau country parks. 

People are advised to take exercise from their homes and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB will be posting ideas for local walks throughout the lockdown period on its social media account. 

Cllr Tony Thomas, the council’s Lead Member for Housing and Communities, said: “During the lockdown residents are asked not to travel to exercise so we are encouraging residents to take advantage of their local areas.

“Exercise is vitally important for everyone’s wellbeing and from the coastal areas with their beaches to the rural areas of the county there are a wealth of local walks and opportunities for exercise.

“We are encouraging residents to take advantage of their local area, to exercise from home and to continue to practice social distancing and good hygiene to stop the spread of the virus and protect our communities.”

Residents are advised that the Countryside Centre at Loggerheads Country Park will be closed during the lockdown.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

MP explains why he voted against free school meals extension

* Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes.

Clwyd South Conservative MP Simon Baynes has sent a statement to llanblogger explaining why he voted against the move by Marcus Rashford to extend free school meals over the half term break during a House of Commons debate yesterday evening.

The footballer, who is leading a campaign on child hunger, urged MPs to "unite" and stop being influenced by "political affiliation".

MPs eventually rejected the Labour motion for an extension by 322 votes to 261.

Amongst them was Simon Baynes who has told llanblogger: "Yesterday there was an Opposition Day debate on extending the provision of school meals in England over the school holidays. 

"It did not relate to Wales as this is a devolved responsibility of the Welsh Government. The vote was not binding, nor was it a proposed law.

"The reason for my vote was because Free School Meals have always been a school provision while students are in school. 

"In England it was rightly extended back in March 2020 to the start of September 2020 as the overwhelming majority of students were told not to come into school. 

"Therefore it was appropriate that Free School Meals via vouchers were given to students. In total £380m of vouchers were redeemed in supermarkets and elsewhere over that time.

"Students, though, are now back in school and those eligible for Free School Meals in England are getting that provision once again in their school setting. 

"This is a really positive policy which has my full support. I do not feel, however, that extending Free School Meals over the school holidays is the proper long term solution to tackling food inequality and food poverty in this country and I am working with colleagues across the House of Commons for a long term, sustainable solution. 

"The best long term approach lies in measures such as the UK government’s recent increase in funding to Universal Credit of £9.3bn or an average increase per household of £1,040 per year and the additional £63m given by the government to English Local Authorities in funding to get food, essentials and meals to those most in need, both young and old, which was praised by the Trussell Trust."

Reminder to parents/guardians of schools arrangements

Parents and guardians are being reminded of the arrangements for the next two weeks, following the Welsh Government’s decision of a fire break to try and halt the increase in the number of coronavirus cases across Wales.

Schools are closing on Friday, 23 October for half term.    Primary and special schools, together with years 7 and 8 at secondary schools will re-open the week commencing Monday, 2 November.  Parents and guardians are urged to check messages from their schools for any local arrangements that may differ).

Those students in secondary schools sitting examinations will be able to go into school for the examinations themselves.  All other pupils at secondary level will be learning from home for that week.

All schools are due to fully  re-open as normal on Monday, 9 November.

Councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts, Cabinet Lead Member for Children, Education and Public Engagement, said: “We would like to thank parents and guardians for their continued support.

“We recognise that the fire break or circuit breaker being implemented by Welsh Government may cause concerns and practical difficulties and people have already made big sacrifices during the previous lockdown. However, it’s essential that we all play our part in trying to stop the increase in cases in Denbighshire. That is down every one of us in Denbighshire communities working together.

“We will be issuing messages on social media during half term to remind parents and guardians of the arrangements for the following week and when we expect pupils to attend.  This will be supported by communications messages from individual schools.  

"School children up to and including year 8 will be returning after the half term. Other pupils from year 9 onwards will work remotely from home and will receive work packages that will be arranged through their school." 

Welsh Government brings rail franchise under public control

In the face of dramatic falls in passenger numbers the Welsh Government has decided to bring the Wales and Borders rail franchise under public control.

Transport Minister Ken Skates said the move will help secure the future of passenger services, protect jobs and maintain the Welsh Government’s ambitious plans for Metro.

The move comes after a challenging period in which Covid-19 has significantly impacted passenger numbers and rail revenue across Wales.

The new arrangements will see day to day rail services become the responsibility of a new publicly owned subsidiary of Transport for Wales, which includes a new partnership between Transport for Wales, Keolis and Amey.

Ken Skates said: “The last few months have been extremely challenging for public transport in Wales and across the UK.  Covid has significantly impacted passenger revenues and the Welsh Government has had to step in with significant support to stabilise the network and keep it running.

“We have decided to transfer of day to day rail services to a new publicly owned subsidiary of Transport for Wales”.

The decision follows the collapse of rail franchises across England as the privatised model comes under strain from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“In Wales we continue a partnership approach between TfW and Keolis Amey as we work together to protect services for the Welsh public, safeguard jobs and secure the important Metro projects we have been working so hard on over the last few years.” Ken Skates added.

RMT union General Secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT welcomes this decision by the Welsh government and believes this is the best way to protect rail services in Wales. We will also be  seeking urgent assurances that railway workers jobs and conditions will be fully protected and the railway will be properly funded.

“RMT is also seeking reassurance that rail infrastructure maintenance will also continue to be provided by the public sector as it was under Network Rail.

“There is huge public support for public ownership because privatisation and profiteering has never been an efficient way to provide value for money, and  this is even more the case when extra funding has been needed during the Coronavirus pandemic.   

"So as well as supporting this decision we are calling on the UK government to give the Welsh Government the necessary powers and support to ensure the railways in Wales have a  safe, secure and sustainable future in public ownership.”

St Collen's reveals its plans for the church's future

* A raised platform for worship and performance would be built at the front of 
the nave after four rows of pews are removed.

llanblogger special report

Urgent action is needed to preserve St Collen’s Church for the future use of the people of Llangollen.

That was the strong message from priest-in-charge Father Lee Taylor as he showcased plans to upgrade the historic building with the aim of making it a hub for a wider range of religious and social use.

Father Lee used a Zoom meeting last night (Wednesday) to give full details of the Community Vision proposals.

These include:

* The removal of pews at the front of the nave to allow a raised platform stage to be built for worship and performance events    

* The provision of a folding kitchen to provide refreshments at cafe-style social gatherings

* Repositioning of the font to a more practical location      

* The installation of modern LED lights in the roof to highlight its historic beauty

* Fitting glass doors at entrances to allow the heavy oak front door to be left open to make the building feel more welcoming

* A new chapel for private worship where the current vestry is sited

* Replacing the traditional pipe organ with a digital version

Around 20 people interested in the future of St Collen’s were invited by Father Lee to join the Zoom meeting, including the architect in charge of the project Duncan Sanderson and members of the church’s task force group dealing with the project.

Father Lee started by drawing a comparison between Coronation Street – his favourite TV soap – and the Church generally.

“Throughout its 60 years’ history Coronation Street has never stopped changing because its producers realised that if it didn’t keep evolving it would die,” he said.

“The same can be said of the Church and the time has come for St Collen’s to change, to adapt our building so that we can better serve our community in a new, exciting and challenging ways.”

He said the call to change was more urgent than it had ever been, in the face of dwindling Sunday morning congregations across the whole of the Church in Wales, the lack of younger people joining and fewer priests being available to serve communities.

And he stressed: “The fact is that we must adapt or die. In 10 or 20 years if we don’t do something there will be no parish church. It will close.”

* An explanation of part of the Community Vision plan.

In a bid to make St Collen’s “more inclusive and accessible” the church has come up with the Community Vision blueprint which includes “both spiritual and social” elements.

Central to the plan would be the raised platform stage envisaged for the front of the church to make it easier for the congregation to see and hear what is happening. This could be used for worship and performance events.

This, explained Father Lee, would mean the removal of the front four rows of pews back behind the pillars, with ramp access to the stage on the north side.

He showed pictures from previous churches where he had worked in the south of England which had similar raised areas.

In Southwark Cathedral, for instance, a high platform had enables it to host scores of performances and concerts alongside its traditional services.         

To enable St Collen’s to host more social events where refreshments are served the plan proposes a folding kitchen is installed in the north west corner of the church where the choir vestry and font currently are.

The font is in this position because it was where the original church entrance was sited but Father Lee said it would make sense to move it for practical reasons.

The kitchen – constructed to look like a piece of furniture when folded – would, he said, allow St Collen’s to offer food and drinks not necessarily in the context of worship, such as candle-lit tours of the church, storytelling and bereavement cafes and exhibitions.

Describing the ornate roof with its medieval beams and carvings as the St Collen’s "crowning glory", Father Lee said the idea was to install LED lighting to enhance these features.

The new lighting would be flexible, capable of complementing worship, concerts and other events. 

Another aspect of the plan is for the south porch entrance and west doors under the tower to have glass doors fitted inside to both mitigate drafts and enable the original wooden doors to be left open when the church is in use, creating a visual link to the inside of the church to draw in passing pedestrians.

Father Lee said he knew the heavy oak doors at the south porch made some visitors hesitant about entering the church.

The rear three rows of pews would also be removed to increase space for visitor information and enable after-event and service mingling.

Other proposals include a new small chapel for private meditation and worship where the current vestry is, the replacement of the pipe organ with a much more compact digital instrument and better wheelchair access.

Architect Duncan Sanderson assured that none of the interventions would disturb the numerous memorials inside the church.

Father Lee said: “All the alterations and changes will be done with the utmost care and sensitivity to the historic building.”

He added that there was no time-frame for when these changes would happen.

“The plans are still being discussed and the Diocesan Advisory Committee must approve them before we make bids for funding. I think it’s a very exciting project,” he said.

People who attended the Zoom meeting gave a general thumbs-up to the proposals and Father Lee said later: “We are still in discussions about the costs.”