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Friday, November 27, 2020

Tune in for some Christmas cheer this evening

* Neil Barrett and David Lyne's double act will be on the evening's bill. 

The Collen Players are to stage a special Christmas Variety show this evening.

But because they’re not yet allowed to perform for a live Llangollen audience due to social distancing rules, they will be bringing some roistering seasonal cheer through the airwaves.

The group was founded a couple of years ago by Father Lee Taylor, priest-in-charge of St Collen’s Church and a music hall enthusiast.

He said: “Collen Players have now done a number of very successful shows which attracted large and appreciative audiences.

“Unfortunately, we had to cancel one of the shows soon after the pandemic began but we were determined to go ahead with our Christmas special.

“We’ll be streaming it live on our own Facebook page observing the very strictest social distancing rules.”

He added: “Like so many other entertainers we’re having to adapt to this new way of performing but we can’t wait to be involved in the show.

“People have had such a very bad time over most of this year and we think they deserve a little cheering up in time for Christmas.

“We hope as many people as possible will watch the show which starts online at 6.30pm tonight (Friday).

Father Lee will as usual be the evening’s chairman and the performers will be Shea Ferron, Julie Thomas and Gethin Davies, Mike Connolly, Susan Stokes, Phil Robinson, Neil Barratt and Dave Lyne.

Accompanying them on the piano will be Owen Roberts.

* To see the show being livestreamed at 6.30pm this evening, go to the Collen Players Facebook page at:      

Entries invited to business champions awards

Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes (pictured) has shown his support for small community-based enterprises in his constituency by backing the Wrexham and Denbighshire Business Champions Awards.

The awards were launched to highlight the achievements of the UK’s very best small businesses who have shown great community spirit in their local area and are aimed at any businesses with up to 50 employees, including hairdressers, cafes, accountants, solicitors and graphic designers.

Small businesses in both Wrexham and Denbighshire have the chance to be in the regional finals, competing at town and country levels. The awards will culminate with five regional finals in Wales, Scotland Northern Ireland, Northern England and Southern England.

Simon Baynes MP said: “In Clwyd South we have so many excellent small businesses who are worthy of the Business Champions Award. 

"So it’s wonderful to see that these businesses have an opportunity to be recognised for their efforts, particularly during these challenging times. I would strongly encourage small businesses in Wrexham and Denbighshire to apply for this award and I want to wish them the very best of luck in this competition.”

Awards Director, Damian Cummins, said: “This year, more than ever, we have learned to appreciate our local independent businesses. From the local corner shop to barbers, pubs and cafes.

“Lots of these small businesses are put off by business awards as they feel they are too small to compete. We wanted to create an awards ceremony that recognised and celebrated the very best of local businesses, from the High Streets to those hidden away in the nooks and crannies of towns and villages.

“The Wrexham and Denbighshire Business Champions are all about the story. We want to know why you are the best in your area and how you support the local community. From being the latest craze or ‘go to’ restaurant in your town, to the family business that’s been going quietly for generations.

 “These are truly local, transparent awards, celebrating local success stories and are incredibly easy to enter. Just reaching the finals alone will help companies to successfully market their business and thrive.”

* For more information, or to enter the awards, you can visit or

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Update on the coronavirus cases at Llangollen Fechan

According to Denbighshire County Council, latest figures available from the Coronavirus incident in the Llangollen Fechan Care Home in Llangollen show there have been five further deaths, taking the total in the last three weeks to 20.

There have been 11 new positive coronavirus tests, which include four residents and seven members of staff, resulting in a total of 60 residents and 40 staff since the start of this incident (as of 26 November)

The Incident Management Team, comprises of Denbighshire County Council, Public Health Wales and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

These organisations are bringing together their expertise and continue to work with the owners of the home and to co-ordinate the response. 

The IMT is taking the incident very seriously, it says.

Co-chair of the IMT, Nicola Stubbins, said: “We continue to work together closely to monitor the situation and to help the owners and staff to implement the control measures.

“We are very sad to report these further deaths and are very concerned about a number of residents who are currently very poorly.

Unfortunately, residents who are already vulnerable through their age or pre-existing conditions are more likely to suffer the worst outcomes from this deadly virus and our thoughts are with all of those affected.

“We still expect to see cases in a variety of settings, and we manage any clusters of Coronavirus appropriately.  This can include providing advice around infection prevention and control, and by supporting contact tracing where required.

“Anyone who meets the definition of a contact will be contacted as a routine part of theTest, Trace and Protect process and provided with additional advice for themselves, their household and other contacts.

“We remind the public that they have a vital role in preventing the spread of Coronavirus.  They can do this by adhering to Welsh Government regulations currently in place in Wales, and by observing social distancing guidelines – that’s staying two metres away from others – and washing hands regularly.”

Council reminds residents of self-isolation support payments

Denbighshire County Council is reminding the county’s residents that have been contacted by NHS Wales Test, Trace and Protect service (TTP) and told to self-isolate that they may be entitled to financial support from a package announced by Welsh Government.

The Self-Isolation Support payment is being administered by local authorities and the application process has now been implemented.

People are entitled to a Self-Isolation Payment of £500 if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • They have been told to self-isolate by NHS Wales, Test, Trace, Protect service (TTP) on or after 23 October 2020
  • They are employed or self-employed
  • They cannot work from home and will lose income as a result
  • They or your partner are currently receiving at least one of the following benefits:
    • Universal Credit
    • Working Tax Credit
    • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
    • Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
    • Income Support
    • Housing Benefit
    • Pension Credit

A discretionary payment of £500 may be available if people meet all of the following criteria:

  • You have been told to self-isolate by NHS Wales, Test, Trace, Protect service (TTP) on or after 23 October 2020
  • You are employed or self-employed
  • You cannot work from home and will lose income as a result
  • You or your partner do not currently receive:
    • Universal Credit
    • Working Tax Credit
    • income-based Employment and Support Allowance
    • income-based Job Seekers Allowance
    • Income Support
    • Housing Benefit
    • Pension Credit
  • You will face financial hardship as a result of not being able to work while you are self- isolating.

Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill, Cabinet Lead Member for Finance and Assets, said: “We fully recognise that some people will have suffered financial hardship as a result of the covid restrictions and worrying about finances only adds to people’s concerns.

“The Isolation Payment has been made available by Welsh Government to assist those that have suffered financially and the scheme is open until the New Year.   The Council has published the information on its website, on social media and through the local press, in the hope that people who may be eligible come forward to apply.

!The Council is responsible for administering the scheme in Denbighshire and information on the criteria, as well as how to apply and the application forms themselves are available on the Council’s website and we would encourage people to take a look and consider whether they are eligible for the payments.

* To apply, please visit the Council’s website:

SM calls for support for "desperate" B&Bs

North Wales MS Mark Isherwood has again called on the Finance Minister Rebecca Evans to provide an urgent statement detailing how she’s going to support "desperate" small B&B businesses, or explain why she’s “abandoned this key sector and its support for our local economies.”

Throughout the pandemic Mr Isherwood says he has made repeated calls for support for these businesses, yet they continue to miss out on funding sources.

Yesterday he again challenged the Minister over the lack of support.

Calling for an urgent statement on the matter during yesterday’s Business Statement in the Welsh Parliament, he said: “When I asked you for a statement on this six weeks ago, I said the Welsh Government again excluded them from financial support to help them survive the pandemic, this time barred from a third round of the economic resilience fund. 

"They were also deemed ineligible in previous rounds and have been denied small business grants, unlike their counterparts in England and Scotland.

"In reply, you said they should speak to Business Wales advisers to explore whether they can point them in the direction of other forms of support. Having tried this, they told me that only loans were available, and these would push them into unmanageable debt.

“They've since told me that they are also ineligible for your lockdown discretionary grant and ask if the Welsh Government were going to help them before we go into this winter, stating, 'Our sector cannot possibly survive without additional help'. 

They therefore need a statement from you, detailing the support you will now give them, or explaining why on earth you've abandoned this key sector and its support for our local economies.”

The Minister told Mr Isherwood to send her details of the reasons why the B&B owners he referred to were not eligible for the discretionary fund

She added: “We are looking to explore what we can learn from this current ERF phase 3 in terms of our package of support as we move forward for business. So, I'd be keen to understand why they were unable to access funding through the discretionary fund, which is deliberately very wide and broad in order to meet the needs of those businesses that have not yet been able to access support.”

Mr Isherwood added: “I will now go back to the desperate B&B businesses who have been in touch to inform them of the Minister’s latest response and ask for their feedback once more, before writing to the Minister.”  

Christmas quiz papers available from Saturday

Papers to enter this year's Cancer Research Christmas Quiz will be available to collect from this weekend.

Organisers say: "Unfortunately, Llangollen Tourist Information is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, but you can pick up your Christmas Quiz as usual from Pro-Adventure.  

"For those who don’t know the town so well, it’s near the traffic lights at the top of Castle Street.  

"The quiz will be available from Saturday, 28th November. 

"After being so badly compromised by Covid this year Cancer Research UK will more than ever appreciate all the support you can offer to put its valuable work back on track."  

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

New guidance on face coverings in schools and colleges

Denbighshire County Council is reminding pupils and parents about changes to guidance regarding face coverings in schools and colleges.

The Welsh Government has updated its guidance and face coverings should now be worn in all areas outside the classroom by staff and learners in secondary schools and colleges, on dedicated school and college transport for learners in year 7 and up and by visitors to all schools and colleges, including parents and carers picking up and collecting children.

The Council understands sufficient time will be needed for schools to communicate these changes to staff, parents and pupils and the expectation is these changes will be implemented as quickly as possible over the coming weeks.

Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts, the Council’s Lead Member for Education, Children's Services and Public Engagement, said: “Schools have worked tirelessly to keep pupils safe with a range of measures and this new guidance on face coverings will keep pupils, staff and parents as safe as possible.

“It is especially important to note that parents and carers picking up and collecting children from school grounds will now be required to wear a mask.

“Along with hand-washing and social distancing, the use of face coverings will help ensure our schools are safe and reduce transmission of Covid-19. We are encouraging pupils, staff and parents to follow this guidance so they can all play their part in keeping our communities safe.

“When cases have arisen in our schools they have been dealt with effectively and the Test, Trace, Protect procedures have been followed.

“The commitment and resilience shown by our pupils and schools has been outstanding. They have worked tirelessly and shown true courage and determination through what has been a difficult time.

“Protecting the health and well-being of our pupils and maintaining a high quality education remains our priority.”

Parents/guardians have been advised to remain alert for the main symptoms of coronavirus:

•  A new or continuous cough

•  A high temperature

•  A loss of or change to sense of smell or taste

Those advised to self-isolated should book a coronavirus test if they develop any of these symptoms, even if they are mild. A test can be booked by phoning 119 or online:

Advice requires those self-isolating to stay at home, not to go outdoors to exercise, to visit shops, family or friends, or to other public spaces. Please do not invite people to your house.

* Further formation on Test, Trace, Protect can be found here

Flu jabs to be available for 50s and over

 Earlier this year the Welsh Government committed to the roll-out of Wales’ largest ever influenza vaccination programme to protect people from the risks of flu.

The Welsh Government secured nearly 460,000 additional vaccines for 2020/21 and these are currently being made available to all GP practices and community pharmacies in Wales. 

Those aged 50 and over should now expect to be contacted by their GP practice or can contact their local pharmacy to arrange a vaccination. 

By mid-November more than 750,000 vulnerable people, NHS staff and schoolchildren in Wales had taken up the offer of a free flu vaccine. Of those aged over 65, 70% had also been vaccinated - levels substantially higher than during the same period last year.

The Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said, today:

This winter more and more people in Wales are taking-up the offer of a free flu vaccine. We have made great progress to protect the most vulnerable in our community and a further 460,000 people in Wales will now be able to benefit from the protection the vaccine offers them and our NHS services.

Extending the flu vaccine to everyone aged 50 or over will help prevent more people becoming ill and reduce pressure on the NHS this winter. I would urge anyone who is eligible to follow the example of the huge numbers of people vaccinated already and have the vaccine.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Frank Atherton, said:

Everyone who is eligible for a NHS flu vaccine can be confident about having it to protect themselves and those around them this winter. Rolling-out the vaccine to all over 50s will protect them and others in our communities in every part of Wales and help protect the NHS this winter.

Four UK nations agree new rules for the festive period

A broad set of UK-wide measures to help people come together with their loved ones during the festive period, in a way that is as safe as possible, have been agreed by the governments of the UK’s four nations.

Speaking after a meeting of the governments, the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford said: “This has been a very long and difficult year for everyone. All our lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everyone has done so much to help control the spread of the virus and to save lives. But that has meant many sacrifices, including not seeing family and close friends. We are all looking forward to Christmas and a chance to spend some time with all those we hold dear.

“Today, I met the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland and Michael Gove, from the UK Government, and I’m pleased we were able to agree a common four-nation plan for the festive period.”

The text of a joint statement issued by the four UK governments is:

"As 2020 draws to a close, we recognise it has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. We have all had to make significant sacrifices in our everyday lives, and many religious and community groups have already had to change or forgo their customary celebrations to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives.

"This cannot be a ‘normal’ Christmas. But as we approach the festive period, we have been working closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, even if it is for a short time, and recognising that it must be both limited and cautious.

"Even where it is within the rules, meeting with friends and family over Christmas will be a personal judgement for individuals to take, mindful of the risks to themselves and others, particularly those who are vulnerable. 

"We need everyone to think carefully about what they do during this period, balancing some increased social contact with the need to keep the risk of increased transmission of the virus as low as possible. 

"This is particularly important when considering those who are vulnerable, and before deciding to come together over the festive period we urge the consideration of alternative approaches such as the use of technology or meeting outside.

"In this context, the four administrations have reached agreement on a single set of UK-wide measures to help people come together with their loved ones in a way that is as safe as possible.

"Today we have agreed that:

  • Travel restrictions across the four administrations and between tiers will be lifted to provide a window for households to come together between the 23rd and 27th of December.
  • Up to three households can form an exclusive ‘bubble’ to meet at home during this period. When a bubble is formed it is fixed, and must not be changed or extended further at any point.
  • Each Christmas bubble can meet at home, at a place of worship or an outdoor public place, but existing, more restrictive rules on hospitality and meeting in other venues will be maintained throughout this period.

"It is important that everyone respects and abides by the rules of each nation wherever they choose to spend the festive period. Where there are any variations in our approach, these will be communicated by each administration accordingly. Further guidance will be provided in due course.

"The winter holiday period is a time often spent with family and friends, with schools and offices closing and people travelling over the bank holidays. Many have already begun making their plans, and we are today providing clarity to help people make the right choices for them, and enjoy time with those closest to them while staying within the rules to protect us all."

Llyr Gruffydd to fight Clwyd South Senedd seat for Plaid

Plaid Cymru's current Member of the Senedd for North Wales has been chosen to fight to represent the Clwyd South constituency.

Llyr Gruffydd (pictured) has been the North Wales MS for the past nine years and is the party's shadow minister for Energy, the Environment and Rural Affairs.

The Clwyd South constituency has been represented since 2011 by Labour's Ken Skates, who is also the Welsh Government's Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales.

Mr Gruffydd, a father of four, has been at the forefront of campaigns to defend nurses facing extra unpaid shifts at Betsi Cadwaladr health board, plans to privatise dialysis services and also been a fierce critic of the over-use of management consultants by the NHS.

Mr Gruffydd said: "I'm grateful that the local party membership has chosen me. Clwyd South is a microcosm of Wales - rural communities, towns, urban villages and a very varied economy that is a mix of industry, public services, farming and tourism. It stretches from the border near Whitchurch to Llandrillo near Bala and includes Llangollen and the urban villages of Wrexham.

"This part of Wales desperately needs fresh vision for the coming five years, so that we can recover and succeed despite the full impact of the Covid pandemic and Brexit shambles hitting the local economy and hard-pressed local services.

"These communities have had it hard - Brymbo for example lost a steelworks in 1990 and it's taken decades to recover. Many others have suffered a decade of cuts and austerity only to find that the Tories have belatedly found a magic money tree when it comes to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. That's come too late for many self-employed and small businesses that have fallen through the net and also many workers who have sadly lost their jobs as a result of the situation. My priority is to work with my Plaid Cymru colleagues to build a stronger Welsh economy that will offer people fresh hope after so many setbacks and uncertainty."

Mr Gruffydd added: "I'm passionate about ensuring a better future for our children. That means a greener, cleaner future for Wales and the world. The growth in renewable energy - much of it community owned such as Corwen Hydro - points in the right direction and Wales can lead the way on this.

"The environment also impacts our health and well-being - the fires earlier this year at Kronospan and the Hafod tip have both been wake-up calls about ensuring our health is at the heart of our priorities.

"That's why I've also been campaigning with local residents to improve healthcare in the rural South Maelor area around Hanmer, where a cross-party campaign seems to be bearing fruit after years of neglect."

Until recently, Clwyd South had been a Labour stronghold both in Cardiff and Westminster.

But Welsh Conservative Simon Baynes was elected as the area's MP in 2019 bringing to an end 22 years under Labour.

The Senedd Election is due to take place on May 6, 2021.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Health board taken out of special measures

This afternoon, Health Minister Vaughan Gething announced that the Health Board would be de-escalated from Special Measures with immediate effect.  

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Chairman Mark Polin and Acting Chief Executive Gill Harris said in a joint statement:

“We welcome this significant announcement and continued support from Welsh Government.  We are encouraged by the growing confidence in our plans to make strategic longer term improvements while acknowledging that there is much more to do.

“The package of support recently announced by Welsh Government will help us to build on work to develop transformational and sustainable solutions to long term challenges in unscheduled care, diagnostics, planned care and mental health services.

“We are confident that our ambitious plans for the future will improve patient experience and waiting times. These include the establishment of Diagnostic and Treatment Centres and driving forward the business case for a North Wales Medical and Health Science School.

“We are hugely proud that colleagues across the organisation have risen to the challenge of COVID-19 and have displayed positivity, resilience and a commitment to patients in the most difficult of circumstances. We thank them for everything they have done to care for patients and keep our communities safe.

“There is a lot more work ahead but we are confident that with the support of our staff, partners, and public, the much-needed transformation of health services across North Wales will be achieved.”

In a joint statement Welsh Labour elected members said:

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, NHS staff in North Wales have worked heroically to help protect people.

“Today’s welcome news that BCUHB has come out of special measures is recognition of how the health board has managed the pandemic and implemented significant improvements.

“The work of improving health services in North Wales will continue and today’s announcement will provide very welcome assurance to patients and staff that Betsi Cadwaladr is heading in the right direction.”

Hannah Blythyn MS, Lesley Griffiths MS, Ann Jones MS, Eluned Morgan MS, Jack Sargeant MS, Ken Skates MS, Mark Tami MP and Joyce Watson MS

Fundraising campaign gets special car for life-saving Effie

* Effie Cadwallader with a car similar to the dedicated first responder one she is to have. 

A fund-raising campaign to provide a Community First Responder with a dedicated car to attend life-threatening medical emergencies in this area has exceeded its £10,000 target only two months after being launched.

Welsh Ambulance Service volunteer Effie Cadwallader is preparing to take delivery of the rapid response vehicle which will be used to answer calls along the Wrexham-Shropshire border.

Effie began her campaign in September with an online crowd-funding appeal. She has since received a massive boost when the Welsh Lottery fund decided to give her a grant for the whole £10,000.

As a result, the Wrexham Rural CFR group has been able to purchase a Skoda Fabia estate car, meet the first year of annual running costs including tax and insurance, and pay for the car to be emblazoned with high-viz markings to ensure it can be seen easily when responders are out on a 999 alert.

During 15 years of volunteering as an unpaid Community First Responder, Effie has answered more than three thousand calls from her home in St Martin’s, responding to emergencies such as strokes, heart attacks and domestic accidents.

Though still based in St Martin’s, she switched earlier this year from a neighbouring ambulance service to become part of the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Wrexham Rural CFR team which covers the border area including Chirk and the Ceiriog Valley, and extending to Llangollen, Overton, Penley, and as far as Bettisfield and the outskirts of Ellesmere.

The move to the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust meant that she had to find a replacement vehicle, because although CFRs are given specialist training and supplied with medical essentials by the ambulance service, the volunteers still have to self-fund the cost of transport, uniforms, kit bags and equipment such as a defibrillator.

More than 100 donors contributed to Effie’s crowd-funding appeal, raising well over £2,000. Other donations were also received from Ellesmere Probus Club, The Keys, St Martins, Stan’s Superstore, and Selattyn Community Group.

The car itself has been generously supplied by the Mitchells Group at Cheshire Oaks, and extra help has been given by Perrys of Gobowen and Ifton Garage.

“I’m enormously grateful to everyone who has made this possible,” said Effie. “I hadn’t expected to reach the target so quickly, let alone exceed it. The Lottery grant was an unexpected bonus and I’m deeply touched by the extremely generous response I’ve had from the community. Many people clearly realise the value of this service.

“The Covid lockdowns in Wales and England have meant a delay in putting the car on the road, but we in the Wrexham Rural team have been responding throughout the pandemic, using our own cars. Hopefully, the new car will be ready soon and it will make such a difference.

“As the first dedicated CFR car in Wales, it will enable a faster and more efficient response to calls because it can be loaded, packed and ready to go with all essential equipment, without having to transfer things from car to car, and running the risk of leaving something vital behind.

“Once the Covid crisis is over, the car will also be used when we are delivering CPR and Defibrillator Awareness courses in communities on both sides of the border once again.”

More information about Wrexham Rural CFRs can be found at


Vitara - an unsung hero of the car industry

Suzuki Vitara road test by Steve Rogers

The pandemic has brought untold misery, but lockdown in England has thrown a small crumb of comfort my way.

Test drives normally last a week but as the Suzuki press team delivered a Vitara just before the latest lockdown, and then went into forced hibernation, the SUV is with me for a month and that, to my surprise, has caused me to challenge how I go about reviewing cars.

More often than not my first thought is to look for a negative. Car companies might believe they reach perfection, but they don't, there will always be some niggle or imperfection. 

In the case of Suzuki it is usually quality of materials, their cars were at the budget end and that is where corners were cut. But that has changed dramatically with improvements across the board yet my eyes still homed in on hard, shiny plastic on the door trim and lower down the dashboard so it still dips below many of its rivals. 

Soon after taking to the road I decided the steering was too light, all minor complaints in the scheme of things yet they could be deal breakers in the car selection process.

Move on three weeks and the Vitara's steering is still light and the trim hasn't changed but neither bother me in the slightest. I am used to the steering and take no notice of the trim.

It prompted a discussion with my wife who had no interest in the state of the door trim (neither did her sister) but was rather taken by the broad designer insert along the dashboard which does catch the eye. 

Her beef was with the speedometer which has no 30mph numerical marking and suggested a digital readout in the driver's binnacle. I'm with her all the way on that and would go further - what about a head-up display?

The upshot is we have grown to like Vitara because it ticks most of our boxes, high driving position, so easy for getting in and out, roomy for its size, economical (will come to that later) well off for those nice things we like in cars, and a good fist of safety features. Good value then.

Vitara was knocked down and rebuilt for 2015 just as the shift to SUVs was in overdrive. Rebranding the off-roader after nearly 30 years was a brave move that paid off. Not as cute as a Renault Captur or as funky as a Jeep Renegade or Citroen C3 Aircross, it looks the part and the  new jazzed up grille and light signature have given it more kerb appeal.

It lost some of its ruggedness to fit into the mainstream clan yet still offers all wheel drive which is one up on the majority of its rivals. Just a pity it is only available at the top of the range.

The other bold decision was to ditch diesel and offer two small turbocharged petrol engines, the smallest just one litre that will leave drivers wide eyed with its performance, refinement and economy, but I would still opt for the 1.4 boosterjet with its mild hybrid technology. I know, more baffling jargon so this is it in a nutshell.

A 48-valve lithium-ion battery, integrated starter generator and converter provides power for low voltage elements like lights, audio and air conditioning. Engine emissions are reduced and off the line acceleration is beefed up. Think of it as having a tiny extra turbo charger.

Compared to the old 1.6 litre petrol this engine is heaps quicker, cleaner and more economical. Shading 50mpg on a run is no problem, and so far Vitara has never dropped below 43mpg, so we can tick the economy box.

Suzuki knows its onions when it comes to all wheel drive and this system is on demand so engages only when wheel spin is detected. The nearest this Vitara got to off road was two wheels on a grass verge but knowing Suzuki it will be effective and offers three other modes, sport to help cornering stability, snow, which speaks for itself, and lock should the going get really tough. It also has hill descent control which could be a life saver on a snow or ice covered road.

The safety package includes radar brake support in case you drift off into another world and fail to hit the brake pedal with trouble looming, adaptive cruise control, blind spot alert and cross traffic alert which is a godsend when reversing out of parking spaces.

I see Suzuki as one of the unsung heroes of the car industry and have friends who swear by them. I wouldn't mind a Vitara but it won't pull my caravan because the towing capacity is a meagre 1200kg. That will disappoint a few farmers as well.

Need to know

Vitara SZ5 Allgrip

£26,799 (range starts £21,999)

1.4 Boosterjet; 127bhp

0-62mph 10.2secs; 118mph

45.4mpg combined

140g/km. 1st tax £205 then £205

Insurance group 19

Monday, November 23, 2020

Temporary "pods" to be provided for care homes

Temporary ‘pods’ are being provided to care homes across Wales to better facilitate visits over Christmas and the winter months, the Health Minister has announced today (Monday).

The £3million pilot will cover the procurement, installation and lease of 100 units, with an initial 30 being installed and ready to use before Christmas.

The semi-permanent units will be available for a period of six months, whilst longer-term solutions are sourced and put in place.

This also includes £1million for plans to support providers who prefer to make their own arrangements on a similar basis.

Expanding capacity within care homes, says the Government, will help to better support risk-assessed visiting during the winter months as some care providers have found it difficult to support socially distanced visits due to a lack of internal visiting space.

Visiting restrictions for care homes were eased as wider lockdown restrictions were lifted in the summer, and again following the fire-break. 

Since August, guidance has supported the reintroduction of indoor visits where possible with a designated indoor visitor.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “We all know how difficult recent months have been for people living in care homes and their loved ones, however ensuring the safety of our most vulnerable has always been paramount.

“We recognise both the distress and sadness that has been experienced since March, but also the desire from care homes to facilitate visits before and during Christmas as well as throughout the winter. Having engaged with key stakeholders, we are confident these units are a way to enable meaningful visits to take place.

“The pilot scheme will help us to understand whether visiting pods are an effective and practical way of supporting meaningful visits. We will use this learning to determine whether we should consider commissioning a bespoke Wales-based solution in future if the course of the pandemic means this is required.”

Work starts on 'pocket park' at old tip site

Work has started on the new "pocket park" being built on the former council refuse tip at Wenffrwd off the A539 on the approach road to Llangollen.

David Shiel, area manager for the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty of which the land is part, said: "This first phase will see the development of a small car park and new access road which we would hope to finish by end of February next year.

"We will then develop some trails around the site and hopefully onto the canal.  

"We are also working towards a link back to the Health Centre along part of the old railway line."

He added: "There are some lovely walks around the site with great views along the Dee Valley and up towards the Panorama.

"I think it is going to be a great additional area to explore in the valley." 

Inner Wheel plans Christmas stall on Tuesday Market

Llangollen Inner Wheel is planning to have a Christmas stall at the Tuesday Market on December 1st.

Vice president Eileen Dart said: "Usually at this time of the year we are making plans for our main fund event which is Christmas Cheer held annually in the Town Hall. 

"Along with most other groups we have had to cancel this and most other events for this year. 

"We are however planning to have a Christmas stall on the Tuesday Market on Tuesday, December 1st, weather permitting. If it is wet we will hold it on the following Tuesday."

Sunday, November 22, 2020

MP speaks out in support of wedding venues during pandemic

Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes (pictured) spoke out in support of the wedding venue industry in  his constituency during a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament.

Mr Baynes addressed fellow MPs during the Live Events and Weddings: Covid-19 Support debate, stressing the importance of the issue to his constituents and the local economy. 

He spoke about the series of roundtable virtual meetings that he has organised over the last few months with representatives from the Clwyd South wedding venue industry, such as Tracey Owen of Tyn Dwr Hall and others from further afield in Wales. 

These meetings were also regularly attended by UK and Welsh Government Ministers.

Mr Baynes also highlighted the importance of the industry to rural economies such as those in parts of Clwyd South. 

And he stressed that while this is a devolved issue in Wales, it was vitally important to recognise that the wedding venue industry across the UK is facing the same issue.

During his speech, he said: “The limit on numbers for wedding venues, whether that be 15 or 30, is arbitrary and should be related to the size of the venue. 

"The limit is out of kilter with European venues, where the figure is often significantly higher - up to 100. The venues I talked to say that in the majority of cases, 50 guests is an economic number, and that it is difficult to break even with lower numbers.

“With all due respect to everyone in the health industry, weddings are not super spreaders of the virus. All the guests are known to the bride and groom and therefore easier to control in terms of track and trace by the venue. There is also a strong vested interest among the guests—to them, there are no random guests—to look after each other health-wise.

“Plenty of economic support has come forward but, as many have said this afternoon, it is not targeted in the way that it needs to be for wedding venues. 

"One suggestion of a practical solution, given that a lot of venues are suffering from the withdrawal of clients’ deposits - that is now getting to be a very serious problem - would be the underwriting or financial furloughing of those deposits. 

"That would bring stability and a breathing space so that the wedding venues can plan with greater confidence for the future.”

Business Minister, Paul Scully MP, in his closing remarks for the debate, said: "It is pleasing to see the dedication of my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes) who, as a number of people have done, has brought the industry together, listened to the sector, reflected on its views and been working tirelessly for those sectors that are so hard pressed and unable to open fully, or in some cases at all."


Santa launches virtual grotto for good causes


* Santa's Grotto is going virtual this year.

Llangollen’s new Town Mayor Austin Cheminais, who works very closely with Santa Claus, has unveiled the latest of his ideas to make Christmas a little brighter this year.

He said: “Santa and I are I’m trying to help make Christmas just as special for the children of Llangollen as it is in other years, in spite of the current pandemic.

“As well as asking residents to decorate their houses and gardens to Light up Llangollen and hoping that we can create a Christmas Scarecrow trail, I’m opening a virtual Santa’s Grotto and am hoping to create video messages for the children who would normally see me in Santa in a local grotto.

“If you’d like a personal Christmas video message contact Santa for details. He now has his own email address at:, or you can call me on 07813 761766 and I’ll pass on the message.

“It will cost £10 with all proceeds going to Wales Air Ambulance.”

The Mayor added: “This time of year Santa usually raises about £1,000 for Wales Air Ambulance and Llangollen Christmas Festival also raises a similar amount.

“I’ve set up a Just Giving account for Wales Air Ambulance and am hoping that the Llangollen Community will help. Anyone who wants to contribute can visit:

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Friends rally round to help pay for young mum's funeral

* Rachael Taylor died at the age of just 34.

Friends of a young mum rallied round to pay for her funeral when she died suddenly at the age of just 34.

Rachael Taylor lived in Ruabon with her partner Sam and 11-year-old daughter Libby-Mae but was originally from Llangollen and attended Ysgol Bryn Collen and Ysgol Dinas Bran.

When she died a friend started up a Just Giving page in her memory.

So far this has so far raised over £3,300 towards the cost of her funeral, which takes place at Pentre Bychan Crematorium next Friday morning.

The funeral cortege will be leaving Hill Street at 11.15am on November 27 and going over the bridge for those wishing to pay their respects.

The funeral itself will have a limited number of mourners due to social distancing requirements.

* The Just Giving page can be found at: