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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Railway launches urgent appeal to save crucial Dee Bridge

* Urgent repairs are needed to Dee Bridge on the line of Llangollen Railway.

Llangollen Railway has launched an urgent appeal to raise £15,000 for repairs to a Victorian bridge vital to its running of trains.

In a post on its Facebook page, the railway's fundraiser officer Paul Bailey says: "If we are to run trains over the Dee Bridge next year we first have to renew the timbers on the bridge.

"This work, including purchasing the timbers, is costing £15,000 - monies the railway currently has not got.

"We have therefore launched an appeal to raise these monies without which we will not be able to carry out the necessary repairs to run train services in 2021.

"If anyone wishes to contribute to this appeal please contact me on 01490 450271, or email for payment methods."

A railway spokesperson said: "The bridge dates from 1865 when the line opened but is a remarkable survivor as the scrapman didn't demolish it in 1968 when the line was closed by Beeching.

"Without it remaining in situ the infant Llangollen Railway would never have got beyond Pentrefelin.

"The LR society, as it was, renovated it in 1984 with some grant aid as part of the extension to Berwyn.

"The need for renewal now is for the timbers which support the rails across the steel structure - a regular maintenance job. It is made more complex this time by the lack of income when no trains are running, with the appeal to members and supporters for cash to allow the expensive new timbers to be purchased ahead of replacement work in 2021."

Coronavirus update from the Welsh Government


  • Latest coronavirus update from the Welsh Government, dated yesterday (Friday), is: 

  • People told to self-isolate for up to 14 days will be eligible for financial support from the Welsh Government as two new schemes are unveiled today [Friday October 30].
    • People on low incomes can apply to receive a £500 payment if they have tested positive for coronavirus or they are asked to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
    • And a new top-up payment is being introduced for the social care workforce in Wales, to increase statutory sick pay to their normal wages if they have to take time off because they have coronavirus or are self-isolating.
    • Up to £32m is being made available by the Welsh Government for the two schemes to support people and remove the financial barriers faced by people needing to self-isolate.
    • Watch First Minister Mark Drakeford’s press conference:
  • More than 5,500 businesses have applied for £100m in business development grants



Firebreak information

  • A firebreak to break the cycle of infections and bring coronavirus under control began on Friday October 23 and ends on Monday November 9


Coronavirus in numbers

Where to find the latest information

o   First Minister Mark Drakeford held today’s briefing. You can watch again at:


Friday, October 30, 2020

Welsh Government unveils two new schemes for people told to self-isolate

People told to self-isolate for up to 14 days will be eligible for financial support from the Welsh Government as two new schemes are unveiled today ([Friday).

People on low incomes can apply to receive a £500 payment if they have tested positive for coronavirus or they are asked to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

And a new top-up payment is being introduced for the social care workforce in Wales, to increase statutory sick pay to their normal wages if they have to take time off because they have coronavirus or are self-isolating.

Up to £32m is being made available by the Welsh Government for the two schemes to support people and remove the financial barriers faced by people needing to self-isolate.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and we have asked people to sacrifice so much this year, including during this latest firebreak. We are committed to doing everything we can to support people and protect people’s health and wellbeing.

“Asking people to self-isolate is an important way to break the transmission of the virus but for many people it can mean the loss of income.

“We all have a responsibility to protect our own health and our loved ones’ too but we know just how difficult that can be when faced with a choice between staying at home and not being able being able to feed your family or going to work.

“These new support schemes are targeted towards people on low incomes and are designed to relieve some of the financial pressures people face if they are asked to self-isolate.”

A £500 fixed payment will be available to people who are asked to self-isolate because they have tested positive for coronavirus or because they have been identified as a close contact by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

The payment is available to people on a low income who are unable to work from home and would lose income as a result of self-isolating. To be eligible, people must be self-isolating and in receipt of Universal Credit or another specified benefit. 

The final arrangements are being made for the scheme to go live. People will be able to apply for the payments via their local authority website and they will be backdated to October 23.

The Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme for social care staff working in care homes, domiciliary care and as personal assistants will start on 1 November and will run until 31 March 2021.  

The scheme will top up statutory sick pay to eligible care workers’ full pay if they need to take time off with suspected or confirmed coronavirus or if they are self-isolating because someone in their household has coronavirus or they have been told to by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government said: “If you are told to self-isolate, working from home is not an option for everyone, making this an even more stressful period for people. Some people can feel under pressure to go to work, just to pay the bills.

“The £500 self-isolation payment and the SSP enhancement scheme will help us protect the vulnerable and give people the financial security they need to stay-at-home and break the cycle of transmission.

“There will be some people who do not meet the criteria for the £500 payment but who will suffer financial hardship as a result of being asked to self-isolate. This is why we have introduced a discretionary element to the self-isolation payment, which will be available to a wider group of people.

“Financial support is already available to people through the Emergency Assistance Payment coronavirus hardship element of the Discretionary Assistance Fund.”

Alongside the two schemes, the Welsh Government intends to strengthen coronavirus regulations by imposing a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if told to do so by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

The regulations will also be strengthened to make it an offence to knowingly provide false information to the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service.

And a duty will be introduced to ensure employers cannot prevent an employee from following NHS Wales Test Trace Protect advice to self-isolate.

These two schemes will form an important part of the national support and measures which will be introduced after the firebreak.

Welsh Government's latest Covid-19 update

Latest coronavirus update from the Welsh Government, dated yesterday (Thursday) is:


 The coronavirus firebreak FAQs have been updated with a section about arrangements for Remembrance events:


Firebreak information

  • A firebreak to break the cycle of infections and bring coronavirus under control began on Friday October 23 and ends on Monday November 9


Coronavirus in numbers

Where to find the latest information

Town Council moves to fill vacancy left by resignation of councillor

* Former councillor George Hughes.

Llangollen's Town Clerk Gareth Thomas has given more details of the resignation from the Town Council revealed by llanblogger yesterday (Thursday).

In a press release he says: "A casual vacancy has arisen on the Town Council following the resignation of Cllr George Hughes.

"In his letter of resignation, Cllr Hughes explained that his decision had not come easily. However, he felt that he was unable to continue in the role due to a number of factors. 

"He stated that it had been a pleasure being part of the Town Council over a number of years and that he was also proud of all that the council had accomplished in the past and had no doubt that the council will continue to be successful in the future.

"Speaking on behalf of Town Council, the Town Mayor said that he was very sorry to hear that Cllr Hughes was unable to continue as a Town Councillor and regretfully accepted his  resignation and thanked George for his past service to the town.”

Mr Thomas added: "The vacancy will now be formally advertised, as from this Friday, and a by-election will be called if ten local government electors give notice, in writing, to the Returning Officer at Denbighshire County Council before 13th November2020.

"If an election is requested then current Coronavirus Regulations will delay any poll until after 1February 2021.

"If no election is called then the Town Council will be able to fill the vacancy by co-option and the Town Clerk would be happy to provide details of this process to anybody who is interested."

* The Town Clerk can be contacted by telephoning 01978 861345, or by emailing

Thursday, October 29, 2020

George Hughes resigns his seat on Town Council


* Former town councillor George Hughes.

A former mayor has resigned his seat on Llangollen Town Council.

George Hughes says he has quit after finding himself disagreeing with the direction the council is taking.

Mr Hughes, 81, has served three terms on the council and was town mayor from 2007-2009.

Born, bred and educated in Llangollen, he worked for 25 years as a plant operator at the Monsanto chemical plant in Acrefair.

Later he spent 10 years as a retained firefighter based in the town. He retired about 20 years ago.

His first two terms on the town council came in the 1990s and his latest term began when he was elected four years ago. Prior to becoming mayor in the mid-2000s he had been deputy mayor for a year.

He was also a founder member of the Pengwern Tenants and Residents Group and also served as its vice-chair.

Mr Hughes said of his departure: “I found myself disagreeing with the direction the council was taking.

“It’s been a pleasure representing the people of Llangollen over a number of years and I’d like to thank everyone who has helped and supported me over those years.”

Mr Hughes said he will continue to be a member of Shape My Llangollen, the group of volunteers which has been tasked by the Town Council to produce Llangollen’s official input into the emerging Denbighshire Local Development Plan.    

His resignation is the third from the Town Council during 2020, with Andy Beech having left in March and former deputy mayor Issy Richards in July.

County council publishes temporary traffic order for town centre

Denbighshire County Council has published the temporary traffic order which it is introducing in Llangollen town centre.

The council says it is making the order for “reasons of public safety following the pandemic and in accordance with Welsh Government regulations”.

The aim, it says, is to “facilitate easier on-street mobility of the public on foot or by pedal cycle with greater self-distancing for individuals”.

The order describes how it will come into force on Monday November 2 and remain in force for a maximum of 18 months.

The order enables the council to:

* Reverse the one-way restriction on Church Street between its junction with Chapel Street and its junction with Regent Street. 

This, says the council, will reduce instances of ‘rat running’ and provide improved access to schools and the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists.

* Introduce a widened pedestrian area on the eastern side of Castle Street between its junction with Bridge Street and its junction with Regent Street. 

This will be achieved with the introduction of bolt-down kerbing and will provide enhanced facilities for people to social distance and travel actively. 

To facilitate this work, on-street parking will be suspended on Castle Street for the duration of the trial period.

* Introduce a one-way restriction on Market Street between its junction with Castle Street and its junction with East Street. 

Vehicles will be allowed to enter Market Street from Castle Street and proceed in a westerly direction. 

The purpose of this restriction is to provide an additional loading bay, for use by businesses, along the north side of Market Street.

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.