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Welcome to My Website

Thank you for taking the time to visit my website.  Although the website is firstly that of a Town and County Councillor, mainly for the benefits of my ward and town residents, it is far from all about local government affairs, so do have a good ramble through the assorted elements and perhaps take a moment or two to go through my latest ward newsletter, copies of which seem to end up all over the UK and even abroad as ward residents pass them on to family and friends near and far.  The record distance one has travelled so far has to be to Melbourne, in Australia, from where I received an emailed invitation to emigrate there as none of their councillors bothers to produce or circulate anything like the usually 16-page item which I try to publish and distribute thrice in each year.  Beyond the newsletters, you will find a broad assortment of information, observations and linkage to other sites of a non-commercial nature, but carrying content which could be useful for visitors to this site.


Having arrived here,  I do hope your time here will prove interesting and informative.  If you notice anything factually incorrect, or wish to make any comment, good or bad, on the contents of the site, or a lack thereof, do not hesitate to get in touch, because I really do appreciate constructive criticism.  You can use either of my email addresses, arnoldwoolley@outlook.com or arnold.woolley@flintshire.gov.uk

 

If you wish for a live conversation, you can try my home phone number of (01244) 549421, which carries an answerphone service, or you might try the Members’ Services office at county council, which is (01352) 702151.  If I am not immediately available, please do leave a message at either location and I will get back to you, that I promise.  Please do not let the fact that I do not engage  in Facebook or Twitter, give you the impression that I avoid communicating with others.  Frankly, I find that my Town, County, Charitable involvements and two busy email sites are at times as much as I can manage in the time available.


As you make your way around the website, you will quickly realise; that I am unashamedly Independent in my Town and County involvements; that I am a dedicated and concerned environmentalist and; like it or lump it, a determined Brexiteer, based on careful investigation and on facts, not emotion.  If you are puzzled or concerned over the EU/Brexit issue, you are welcome to contact me about it. I have a whole lot of informative facts at my fingertips. Having said that, UK residents do need to ensure that in leaving the EU, if we ever do, we do not permit Westminster to water down or cancel, the beneficial EU legislation on protection of the environment, limitations on working hours, health & safety, food standards and air quality, all of which we most certainly do need to keep on our national statute books.


So, folks, if you care to read on, I will make only two claims.  The first is that, in Local Government issues, I will tell the story as I see it without fear or favour.  The second is that I shall say what I mean and mean what I say. 


I hope you will find your precious time spent here to have been a sound investment.   If you do, then please tell your friends about it. If you do not, then do please tell me why not.

I regard my councillor responsibilities as a 24 hour, 7 days per week commitment. I do not vanish at night-times or weekends.

Finally, if you have a problem which needs solving and you cannot find anything helpful in these pages, do get in touch with me, for the simple reason that my contact tentacles reach far and wide, with the result that if I cannot assist, I can usually find someone, or some entity, able to assist you to resolve your dilemma.

Council Services

Local Authorities such as Flintshire are required to deliver a fairly extensive list of services both to and for the population of their county. Some of those services are statutory, meaning they are enshrined in legislation and have to be delivered, according to laws made at the UK and Welsh levels. As well as those the county also provides a range of optionally chosen services, according to local need, or political inclination. The county provides some of these services directly, works in partnership with other organisations and commissions others to provide services on their behalf. In keeping with the other 21 local authorities in Wales, the county receives around 80 per cent of its funding directly from the Welsh Government.


Although the services provided by Flintshire County Council are subject to laws, strategies and targets set and monitored mainly by the Welsh Government, the local authority does have some discretion in providing and delivering those services in their area.
When it comes to the county's responsibilities, they are extensive. The detailed lists are to be found in numerous pieces of primary and secondary legislation passed by the UK Parliament and the Wales National Assembly. The list below provides a non-exhaustive overview of the county's general powers and responsibilities:


• Civil registration services (births, deaths and marriages);
• Coroners;
• Cremation and burials;
• Economic development and regeneration (including powers to provide grants and support businesses);
• Education (including the provision of nursery, primary, secondary, full-time 16-19 year old education and post 19 year old education apart from Higher Education);
• Environment (including public health, animal welfare, noise and light pollution, dog fouling, abandoned vehicles, maintenance of grounds and parks and litter etc.);
• Emergency planning;
• Fire and rescue services;
• Food safety;
• Highways (under provisions outlined in the Highways Act 1980);
• Housing;
• Leisure and recreation;
• Licensing (including responsibility for alcohol licensing, taxis, public entertainment and gambling);
• Planning;
• Social services; for both Adults and Children/Young People;
• Strategic planning;
• Transport;
• Trading standards; and
• Waste.
• Legal Affairs.

On Becoming a County Councillor

Personally, I felt fortunate that I had had almost ten years of experience as a Buckley Town Councillor from 1994, before winning a seat at county level in 2004. That is not to say that there is anything wrong in “leaping in at the deep end” of local authority activity. Good luck to those who do. I merely assert that I felt fortunate, because I had just a little idea, gained from conversations with experienced county councillors on Buckley Town Council, of their involvements, trials, tribulations, workloads and successes and their frustrations.

That latter point being a need for recognition that at county level, in the areas of strategy and policy, little or nothing gets done quickly and decisively, because committee and other procedures, rules, regulations, health & safety issues and a seemingly perpetual shortage of funding, all seem to conspire to get in the way of prompt progress. Operational activities fare somewhat better, but even there, budgeting, scheduling and organising always seem to take a bit longer than out there in the big wide world beyond public services. When I appeared as a fresh face, one of the long-served members asked, very kindly, “How well do you handle frustration?” I thought the question strange, until he explained. The passage of time has demonstrated that he clearly knew what he was talking about!


Town councillors receive no payments for their services to the community. Mayors usually receive an allowance and of course legitimate expenses are recoverable against proof of expenditure. However, at county level, even the rawest rookie receives the current level of allowances as set by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales. Currently that is better than £13k per annum. Additional payments exist for Chairs of Committees, Cabinet Members and Leader and Deputy positions.


Just how much effort or interest any individual county councillor puts in is an entirely personal decision. Since councils are made up of an eclectic mix of employed, unemployed and retired persons, some with families and others without, there are councillors who would wish to be able to do more, but are time constrained, councillors who do what they can and a fortunately very small number who appear to wish only to do as little as they possibly/legally can. Apart from attending the legally essential two out of the half-dozen or so full council meetings throughout the year, additional involvement and therefor time commitment, is up to the individual.


My own current committee involvements are:
1) Standards Committee
2) Audit Committee
3) Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee
4) Constitution Committee
5) Democratic Services Committee


For anyone interested, attendance levels of all councillors are available on the FCC website.


Once elected, county councillors serve what can be a four or five year term. After the initial year of each term, county council Annual General Meetings usually take place in May, when Leaderships, Chairmanships and committee memberships are all sorted out, governed by the standing rule of “Political Balance.” Thus, membership of committees can and does change, year by year.
Following each round of local election, a series of induction presentations are made, by officers of the various departments and disciplines, to provide newcomers with some idea of what they have let themselves in for by winning a seat. Sensible old-hands also take the opportunity to appear at these as they are one way of staying up to date with the constant changes of legislation and procedures delivered by the EU, Westminster and Cardiff.


Newcomers also need to allow for the additional burden of attending Workshops and Training Sessions as months roll on. Particularly so if any newcomer ends up on the Planning Committee, where failure to attend a high level of training/update sessions can cause disbarment from membership of the planning committee.


Aside from engagement within the buildings as it were, councillors can volunteer to get involved as council representatives on a plethora of outside bodies, from school governorships, to a seat on the Mersey-Dee Alliance committee. In that area, I am a governor at Southdown Primary School in Buckley. I also lend a hand as mentor for the Buckley Monday Club and am a committee member of the Buckley Senior Citizens’ Association, better known as the Buckley Friday Club. Other community involvements are as Chair of Flintshire District Scouts Executive Committee, Chairman of Flintshire Citizens’ Advice Scheme, Trustee of Welsh Border Community Transport Scheme and committee member of Buckley Branch of The Royal British Legion. Another engagement is as Co-ordinator for Buckley Community Speedwatch Team. I am also a Walk Leader with Buckley walkabout, which gets me plodding a couple of miles or more around Buckley, each Thursday morning, with 60 or 70 intrepid urban walkers who brave whatever weather comes along.


The several community level commitments, as listed above, help me to stay reasonably well connected with what is going on within the local and wider community. I also deliver my own Newsletters on Town, County and more distant affairs three times a year. (Anyone who wishes to read the latest (November 2018) publication, or back editions, can find them elsewhere on this website.) Plodding around the 1700 or so houses/flats in the ward, shoving 8, 12 or 16page newsletters through letterboxes keeps me up to date on the physical and environmental condition of Bistre East Ward.


As a town or county councillor, although one has duties and responsibilities right across the town or county, representing the population of the ward in which you successfully stood for election, is of primary importance. That of course is easier for Independent Councillors, who are entirely free from any form of Manifesto or Political Party whipping constraints. I do not engage in Facebook, or Twitter, but am available 24 hours a and 7 days a week, by phone and email.


Finally, as a councillor, there are many hours which need to be spent simply reading Agendas, Reports and Legislative Updates, so that you stay abreast of the rules, regulations and laws, which our legislators at all levels above us seem to enjoy churning out by the bucketful, day by day. Without putting in that kind of effort, no councillor, new or long-served, can really contribute meaningfully to any debate at any level.


It impresses no-one when councillors attend meetings, sit down at the table, produce previously un-opened envelops or i-pads, as much material is now on-line rather than manuscript and promptly ask questions, the answers to which are within the paperwork or on the screen which they have not yet read.

Community Speed Watch Activities

Buckley’s CSW team is not very popular with a thankfully small, but vocal portion of our motoring public. However, we are not alone. CSW teams now exist all over the UK, appearing at the roadside at police-approved locations. Those of us who do so take time to periodically stand at the roadside, locally, usually for an hour or so at a time, in urban areas, pointing radar speed measuring devices at passing vehicles in order to monitor traffic volume and speed.

We are regularly on the receiving end of harsh, insulting, rude, foul and even threatening language, not only from drivers, but often from their passengers too. These anti-social persons are the ones who instantly splash their antagonism all over face-book and other mass media devices to make their views publicly known. What they tend to forget is that all that they are really doing is to publicly display their poor driving abilities and anti-social attitudes. However, within every society at any time in history, there has always existed “The Silent Majority.”


They are the backbone of our society and the glue that keeps the whole thing tolerable to live within. Decent, law-abiding, sensible, thoughtful and responsible people. In traffic terms, they are 95% of our motoring public, the ones who drive properly and competently, within, or close to, the legal limit for wherever they are. Many of them pass us by with a smile, a nod of acknowledgement, a friendly wave or a “thumbs-up.” They far out-number the knockers, mockers, insulters and threateners we encounter. A fair number of them even stop to ask if I and my small team can please appear in their particular street, because they are fed up with the irresponsible and dangerous driving of all too many of the motorists passing their front doors and driveways. They are why we appear, to back-up, inform and support our hard-working and over-stretched police forces and the Go-Safe teams operating throughout the UK.

In operational terms, we possess no police powers. We do not receive any payment for our efforts. We have all been adequately trained. Some of us, like myself and my wife, have past police and traffic experience, which does help. We do NOT stop vehicles and hand out speeding tickets. As stated above, we only operate at police approved locations, chosen according to the weight of complaints about speeding vehicles, as reported to local authorities or the police. We only function in 20, 30 and 40mph speed limited areas, during daylight hours..

We also only function during clear daylight hours, because we need to set down on paper the registration numbers, makes and colours of vehicles that attract our attention by speeding excessively. We are required to be highly visible, so we wear our bright yellow tabards and jackets and we do not hide away behind hedges or bushes as our detractors often claim.


Another thing we do NOT do is record details of vehicles whose drivers have simply strayed a mile or two over the local legal speed limit. We apply what could be called a “generosity allowance” of 10%, plus 1, which means that within a 20 mph zone it is only those drivers who reach 24mph and above, or in a 30mph Zone, those vehicles speeding at 35mph or greater, which will cause us to start scribbling down the details we need. Continuing that 10% plus 1 rule, In any 40mph Zone it is those drivers whose speed registers as 46mph or greater on our radar guns who will discover that they have become a recorded and reported item. We do receive the occasional complaint that a driver was doing well under the legal limit as they drove past us, but have still received a letter from North Wales Police. What I have to explain to them is that our radar guns will have already measured their speed when they were 300 yards or more away, so it is no good treating us like a fixed camera and slowing down only in our immediate vicinity.

Similarly, for the small number of drivers who trundle past us sedately, wait until they are fifty yards past us and then drop down a gear, floor the accelerator and race away, we note the vehicle numbers as they approach and our radar guns are just as good at registering the speed of a vehicle going away from us as much as one coming towards us. That has ensured that most of the “Mickey-Takers” get their just deserts too!

 

As for the reporting process, that starts with me, as co-ordinator of the Buckley CSW Team, going through the written records after a session at the roadside. I may find myself needing to check, via the publicly available DVLA records, anything from 2 to 49 (Yes, our record is 49 in one session!) vehicle details after an hour at the roadside. My task is to ensure that the registration number we noted, let us say, of the Blue Audi we recorded as doing 47mph in the 30mph Zone, actually matches the DVLA details for that registration number. If it does not, nothing goes forward to the police. The team always function with at least two scribes backing up whoever is operating the radar gun. We do not get it right on every occasion, but we have a record of better than 90% accuracy. In doing those checks, what also appears is information relating to the current tax and MOT situation of the vehicle and whether or not it is subject to a Statutory Off-Road Notice.

 

Since August of 2016, when the team first appeared at the roadside, we have been passed by over a score or more of vehicles stated as SORN on DVLA records. Almost without exception the records at DVLA display that they are way overdue for an MOT test meaning they are without insurance cover.   We are also finding that, aside from the vehicles registered as SORN (Statutory Off Road Notice), 3% of the vehicles we record as speeding show up as having neither current Tax nor MOT certification. That latter item also means that they are uninsured.

 

Once I have verified via the DVLA website that our data as recorded at the roadside is valid and noted any Tax, MOT, or SORN situation, it is then my job to enter the data for each vehicle into the records at the Central Ticket Office, in a form prescribed by North Wales Police. There the data is checked once again for accuracy, before  the Ticket Office Staff send the registered owner of the vehicle a polite letter reminding them of their speeding and pointing out that had their vehicle been recorded by the Go-Safe van, it would have cost £s out of the drivers’ pockets and points on their licences. The letter also points out that in this instance, no further action will be taken and invites the driver to be a more aware of speed limits in the future.  

 

Without doubt, certain of our local drivers and their cars have speeded past our team on more than a single occasion since the Buckley team commenced operations in August of 2016. Clearly those drivers have no respect for speed limits or police letters. Those drivers seem to believe it is safe to just laugh them off and carry on speeding and driving dangerously as usual. My advice is for them to think again, because there are limits and they will inevitably end up with an invitation to a court appearance in the fulness of time.

 

In closing, while standing at the roadside, the use of mobile phones and the failure to use seat-belts, which we frequently see, pale into insignificance alongside those drivers of all ages and sexes we have seen eating a Pot Noodle while driving, or tapping at the keys of an i-pad or other electronic devices wedged across the steering-wheel. Not safe driving practices. Nor are having large dogs or small children sitting in the driver’s lap, yet those are situations this team has seen, far more than just once.

 

For those readers interested in Data, since August of 2016 when we first went operational, this small team of  half-a-dozen volunteers has been out on 321 occasions, in 24 Locations, around Buckley, Mynydd Isa, Padeswood and Drury, carried out 1949 hours of voluntary work, noted 4996 vehicles as Speeders recorded, with 4776 correctly identified and reported to N.W. Police, giving an accuracy level of 95.6% (End of January, 2019).

 

Highest speed recorded in a 30mph Zone has been 74mph. We have also recorded 57mph past a Residential Rest Home within a 30mph Zone. Under standard situations, 54mph in a 30mph Zone will result in an invitation to talk to a magistrate. If any reader cares for more information on CSW activities, try a visit to Communityspeedwatch.org. Lots more reading there.


Finally, please do not laugh us off as toothless tigers. One person who chose to do so and became a little over-aggressive, ended up with a common assault conviction on top of a £200 fine for doing 57mph in a 30mph Zone.

Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neo liberalism

Here is a link to a lengthy but extremely interesting article involving and interview with Michael Hudson and his take on how neo liberalism is influencing economics on a global scale. It mentions the disparity between rich and poor and how economies are manipulated in order to keep the rich and influential minority of bankers, financiers, fund managers, politicians et al on top.

Following on from the above is another link here to an article describing EU "Bail in" conditions which came into effect on 1st January 2015 allowing the seizure of bonds by financial authorities in order to prop up failing banks.

New Housing List launched

Single Housing Registers in Flintshire and Conwy


The way that you apply for social housing and how homes are allocated in Flintshire and Conwy has changed.


Flintshire County Council, Conwy County Borough Council and all the Housing Associations in the two counties are working in partnership to make it easier for people to apply for social housing.


There’s now just one housing register in each county and all properties are allocated from that single register. Previously the Councils and each housing association had their own housing registers and prospective tenants had to apply to each separately. 
The new system aims to make it easier to apply for social housing and make the housing register easier to understand.
Cllr Phil Edwards, Conwy’s Cabinet Member for Communities said, "There is a shortage of social housing and this new approach will help us provide a range of realistic options for people; to help them secure housing in the areas they want, by exploring the range of options available in the county."


Under the new system, people who apply for social housing will be assessed to see if they meet certain statutory criteria, which will determine their level of housing need. They will also be assessed as to their local connection with the area and community in which they want to live. The new system has a number of bands and only those people in the greatest and most urgent need will be in the higher bands and therefore get priority for housing.


The new system introduced over a year ago seems to be working reasonably well, within the constraints of too many applicants bidding for too few accommodation units available.  The local elections of May 2017 saw Cllr Helen Brown replaced as Cabinet Member for Housing by the Deputy Leader of the council, Cllr. Bernie Attridge, who will no doubt deal sympathetically with any queries or concerns put before him by applicants for local authority or Social Landlord housing units.


If you are applying for a home in Flintshire or Conwy, you must make an application to:

Flintshire:
Flintshire Housing Solutions 01352 703777
www.flintshirehousing.co.uk


Conwy:
Conwy Housing Solutions
0300 1240050 www.conwyhousing.co.uk

Budget 2019-20

Readers may find it strange, but the county’s 2019-2020 annual budget-setting process, concerns, worries, process, call it what you will, actually began way back in the middle of 2018, when it was realised that whatever settlement was handed down to us by the Welsh assembly Government for the 2019-20 Financial Year it was extremely unlikely to be sufficient to stave off further service cuts and staff reductions.

 

Readers need to remember, please, that in the “financial provision rankings” published by the Wales Government for the past many years, the formula used, which is accepted by most intelligent analysts as being way out of date, unrealistic and impracticable, places Flintshire County Council as 19th out of the 22 local authorities in Wales in terms of cash provided per head of population.  Money was tight way back in the 2008-2012 period, when I was Leader of the county council, following the “Global Financial Crash” created within the collapse of the USA’s sub-prime financial services market.  Since then, an assortment of events and Welsh Government Policies, have combined to demand year on year cuts, usually described as “economies,” in order to enable councillors to meet their legal requirement to set a balanced budget for whichever current year they are dealing with.

 

To do that, the county’s Labour administration has, since 2012, overseen more than £60million in cuts/efficiencies and a downsizing of a couple of thousand of the total workforce as once was.  All of that in the face of an ageing and growing population and rising demand and expectations across most disciplines and departments. To use simple figures for the better understanding of readers. In the 2012-13 Financial Year the Council’s Revenue Budget was set at £242.6million.   For 2019-20 the figure is £187.8million (A reduction of £54.8million or 22.6% down from the 2012 level).

 

Even as far back as April of 2018, it was seen as likely that the gap for 2019-2020 would be around £12.2million. Through 2018, two “Budget Workshops” were held in order to ensure that councillors fully understood the magnitude of the foreseeable Budget Gap for the 2019-2020 Financial Year. Over the months, officers and councillors have worked together to reduce that figure as sensibly and as pragmatically as could be achieved, while still being in a position to maintain essential services to the public at an adequate and efficiently delivered level.

 

When the Provisional Settlement was announced by the WAG in October, the funding provision indicated was even poorer than we had feared.  That promptly increased the Budget Gap to a likely £15.3m.   Further work reduced to £6.7m at the end of November 2018.  More paring and squeezing went on over the Christmas/New Year period.  The result of that was that figures presented to councillors at a third workshop at the end of January, 2019, indicated that the Budget Gap had, arguably, been reduced to  £3.102Million, based on a limited increase in Community Charge of 4.5%, which most of us councillors felt was at the upper end of what the average resident could afford, given that the Community Charge is based, blindly, on property value, with no regard at all to the actual annual income of residents, or their ability to pay the charge demanded year on year.  That last workshop established that without making deep and potentially damaging cuts to Departments, including Education and Social Services, there is a need to raise the coming year’s Community Charge to 8.5%, unless the Wales Government in Cardiff provides additional funding for Flintshire County Council.

 

The Wales Assembly Government appears unconcerned about unfair formulae, inequitable per capita funding, or the clear and growing North-South divide in Wales.  The largest increase compared to 2018-19 is + 0.9% in Cardiff and the largest decrease is -0.3% for five local authorities (Isle of Anglesey, Conwy, Flintshire, Powys and Monmouthshire).

 

In the latest move to at least try to get the Wales Government to see reason, a large group of Flintshire county councillors of all political shades set of in a coach to Cardiff on Tuesday 5th February, 2019, to lobby Ministers for better financial support.  Frankly, there was clearly more hope than expectation in that effort.  Even the most hopeful outcome might just have seen an additional support payment which would reduce the likely 8.5% Community Charge increase this year down to the all-Wales average increase of 6.5%.  Sadly, your councillor representatives, for all of the effort and all of the cross-party unity, returned home completely empty-handed.

 

At somewhat acrimonious meetings of full council on 19th and 28th February, councillors finally voted 33 to 22, with a few abstentions, to impose an 8.75% increase on the Community Charge to be levied from residents during the 2919-2020 Tax Year.  Voting was split almost totally on Party lines, with those of the current Labour Administration voting “For” and those forming the Opposition, Conservatives, LibDems and Independents mostly voting “Against.” 

 

Personally, I voted “Against” for good reasons.  The greatest of them being that this savage imposition of financial burden on residents was, in my opinion, entirely avoidable.  In power since 2012, the Labour leadership has faithfully followed their Party Doctrine of Borrow, Spend and Tax.  During their previous years in office prior to 2008, the Labour Administration managed to rack up long-term debts of the order of £172million, costing county some £9million in annual interest repayment charges, straight out of our Annual Revenue Fund. Between 2013 and 2019 they increased that long term borrowing (20, 30, 50 years) to £390million, with interest repayment demands rising to nearly £13million.  Had the administration been more prudent, rather than profligate, with their borrowing, that £4 would not have been needed each year to pay interest demands and the 8.75% Community Charge increase for this year would not have been necessary.

Lets talk politics

If ever there was a time to mutter, “Come back Guy Fawkes, all is forgiven!”, we seem to have reached it.   All that I would add would be, “Please remember we now have Cardiff too!”  Aside from that, we have only ourselves to blame, because whether it is Westminster’s bickering bunch or Cardiff’s catastrophic collection, we voters put them where they are. 

 

At the Westminster level, the ill-advised Theresa May, more keen on staying within the EU, rather than leaving it, plods her fumbling way towards a Brexit Agreement which satisfied nobody, while down in Cardiff, the latest Commission established by the WAG in order to re-energise the shape and function of the

 

Town and Community Council level of local government in Wales did actually publish its 40 page report in October of last year.  That Commission was originally tasked with holding meetings around the country about a “Review of Community and Town Council Sector in Wales.”  The Panel wished representative Town, Community and Parish Councillors to respond to four questions, which were:-

1)  What should Community and Town Councils be responsible for?   

2) How should they operate? 

3) What’s standing in the way to deliver for the local community?

4) How do councils ensure they best represent their local communities?   

 

Apart from the fact that these questions were asked of councils way back at the end of October of 2017, trying to answer them without some clear picture of their intentions for the structure of the higher (County) level of Local Government in Wales after 2022, is akin to firing arrows in the dark.  What we need from the WAG are several clear decisions, relating to: a) Whether Regionalisation is or is not still on the table? b) If it is not, how many 1st Tier/County level Councils are intended?  c) Do they intend to keep the 735 Town, Community and Parish Councils, or reduce them to their one-time target of 100-120? D) If 2nd Tier council numbers are to be reduced, but their areas, powers and responsibilities made greater,  where is the funding to come from?  Will it be the WAG, or from residents’ pockets by way of increased local precepts? 

 

To be fair to the Minister, he gave the Commission a remit which permitted, even encouraged, the members to produce solutions which were, if needed, radical.  Having read, twice over, through the 40 pages of the Commission’s report, I fear they really have missed a golden opportunity. Perhaps worse still, the Minister’s reply to the 40 page report says little or nothing in itself. It appears we shall still totter on as a nation, with 735 disparate second tier councils, (Many of which have not seen a full election process in a score or more of years!), without any full cover of the entire land area of Wales and with no clear road-map of where we are heading at that level of local government.  

 

Meanwhile, the WAG is pushing on with its determination to increase the number of AMs from 60 to 90, with commensurate additional costs and to lower the voting age to 16.  Having a generation of youngsters allegedly adult and mature enough to understand the vagaries, illusions, half-truths and untruths which swirl throughout the political activity and be capable of making well-informed voting decisions, while still being regarded, at law, as “children” needing to be kept separate from the adult legal system, raises strange anomalies in my mind and in the minds of many who have spoken to me about the subject.

 

As for the funding of Local Government here in Wales, the WAG bleats that over the last half-dozen years, it has seen an £800million, or 5.3% cut in funding from Westminster. They trumpet that as the cause of all sorts of projects and actions not being undertaken.  Meanwhile, over that same period of time, that same WAG has passed down to Flintshire, if not all County Councils in Wales, funding cuts amounting to 23% and lifted the previous barrier of  a 5% maximum Community Charge increase in any one year, which is how the current Flintshire Administration, following its dedicated Labour Party Philosophies, has passed down an 8.75% rise in Community Charge to residents for the forthcoming 2019-2020 financial year.

Let's Talk Affordability and Common Sense

As I have set out in this Homepage already, the rising cost of the overall Public Services, including Local Government, along with ever increasing rules, regulations and beaurocracy, is unsustainable. Fortunately, there is evidence, persuasive evidence, from reputable bodies, that unless drastic steps are taken, by 2022 or thereabouts, the dwindling amount of annual funding for local government will meet the rising annual cost of paying for just two essential services; those being Care for the Elderly and Support for Vulnerable Young People. No money left for Education, Highways, Housing, Refuse or anything else. Unthinkable? Not so! It is in fact inevitable; unless some drastic re-organisation of Local Government and the Public Services in general is undertaken, soon!


So far, here in Wales, in recent years, the 22 Local Authorities have been instructed to “Collaborate” in order to save money and improve services. Flintshire has been a leading light in that effort, but, those efforts have produced merely pennies where pounds are needed.


Many of my fellow councillors will pillory me for stating that we need, urgently, to move to a Single Public Service arrangement. Included within that has to be a move towards some form of “Regionalisation,” possibly based on the old pattern of larger counties, as was in the days of Clwyd, Gwynnedd, etc. If it is not that shape, then perhaps based on the boundaries of the half dozen Health Boards. Looming hugely is the urgent need for Health Services, Social Services and Housing Authorities to get their overarching act much more interconnected. That can only be achieved by working, or even being, together.

Now that the Williams Report, commissioned in April, 2013, has finally delivered it findings and made the recommendations which I have outlined above on my homepage, there does appear to be, finally, some recognition that Wales cannot continue to afford the current heavy cost of the present structure of Local Government.

Birmingham has roughly the same population as has Wales. That city functions well with just one Council, yet here in Wales, we have, for many years, apparently believed we needed 22. If we, as a nation, are to downsize Local Government as radically as the Williams Report indicates, that downsizing has to be carried out via a well thought through, orderly, sensible and well-organised plan that allows for a great deal of communication, over the coming few, or several years. That communication must be between the Wales Government in Cardiff and Councillors and Council Employees at one level and with the public at large at another level.

If the forthcoming restructuring is not organised and delivered seamlessly, it is possible, indeed inevitable, that about £200Million, the cost of the change, will have ended up as wasted money and the restructured Local Authorities will fail to deliver on the promise of improved services and lowered cost of operation. It may seem a long while from now, in 2018, until 2022 or thereabouts, but, time flies.

The proposed new structure of local government in Wales is unlikely to be in place until 2022, or even 2023. Even then it will need a year or two to settle down, sort out any kinks and gather full operational speed and cohesion. The magnitude of change needed will most likely take up that entire length of time. That is why I say that “The Great and the Good” down in Cardiff, if that is what they are, need to wake up and act, not dither, as they appear to be doing now.

If you think I am wrong, read an interesting little book entitled "The Death of Common Sense" written by Philip K. Howard in 1995, in the USA.

Outstanding investments

Here is the latest schedule of investments that Flintshire County Council has. You will need to scroll down to page 123 as it is part of a lengthy document.

Flintshires Long Term Borrowing Analysis can be found by following the same link as above, but you will need to scroll down to page 127 for the information.

Bistre East Ward

For government information on the Ward of Bistre East, and a map of the area covered please click here to see a ward profile.

Brunswick Road Jubilee Clock Buckley Cross Jubilee

Many of the links in this site are to PDF Document .PDF documents. To read these you will need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. If you do not already have it, you can download it from here.

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