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Welcome to my website and thank you for taking time to make the visit.  I hope it will prove worthwhile for you. Do note that even though I do not engage in Facebook or Twitter, I am available on email at arnoldwoolley@outlook.com or arnold.woolley@flintshire.gov.uk or via phone on 01244 549421, if you have opinions you wish to express, concerns you wish to talk through, or criticisms you wish to register.  If you use telephone, please do leave a message on my answerphone if I am unavailable at the time you phone. As long as you leave a telephone number, I will phone back to you at the first opportunity I get.

 

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.

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 also welcome constructive criticism.

 

I hope you will find your precious time spent here to have been a sound investment. If you are looking for anything in particular, but fail to find it, why not use my email or telephone contact routes to get in touch with me about it? Try arnoldwoolley@outlook.com or arnold.woolley@flintshire.gov.uk or (01244) 549421 (H) or (01352) 752121 (FCC).


I regard my councillor responsibilities as a 24 hour, 7 days per week commitment. I do not vanish at night-times or weekends. To that end, if you do phone my home number but get no reply, please do put your name and own phone number on the answering machine. I will get back to you, that I promise.

 

Community Speed Watch Activities

With a small, but vocal portion of our society all over the UK, those of us who take time to periodically stand at the roadside, for an hour or so, in urban areas, pointing radar speed measuring devices at passing vehicles in order to and monitor traffic volume and speed, are not very popular. We are regularly on the receiving end of harsh, insulting, rude, foul and even threatening language. They are the ones who instantly splash their antagonism all over face-book and other mass media devices to make their views publicly known. 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. We 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 30mph or 40mph limited areas. 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 30mph Zone it is only those vehicles speeding at 35mph or greater which will cause us to start scribbling down the details we need. 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.


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 46 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. We 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. In the year and a quarter of our activities, we have been passed by over a half-dozen vehicles stated as SORN on DVLA records. We are also finding that 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.


Unlike many CSW teams, we keep our own card-index of our work at roadside, so, once I have verified that our data as recorded is valid, I hand the verified paperwork to my wife, Paula, who maintains our hard-copy filing system. In doing that, Paula makes out index cards for each vehicle, with location, date time and speed noted on them. From that we can pick out repeat offenders. The paperwork then comes back to me, so that I can put the details of the recorded vehicles, any “previous record” with us, their situation with SORN, Tax or MOT on DVLA records on to a spreadsheet, in a form prescribed by North Wales Police and send that off to our up-line supervisor within the St. Asaph offices of North Wales Police. There the data is checked once again for accuracy, before being passed on to the Ticket Office of the North Wales Police, who then send the registered owner of the vehicle a polite letter reminding them 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 and would the driver kindly try to be a more aware driver in future. From the fact that on our records we have over one hundred vehicles noted as repeat offenders, better than twenty as third time offenders and one as a fourth-time offender, it would seem that some drivers are being so foolish as 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 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 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, more than once.


For those readers interested in Data, since August of 2016 when we first went operational, this small team of a half-dozen volunteers has gone out on 151 occasions to any of our 16 approved locations in and around Buckley. Those sessions have entailed some 678hrs of work, either at roadside or in administration. We have recorded 2,341 speeders at roadside and reported 2,158 to North Wales Police for letters or follow-up activity. That gives us a 92.18% accuracy level.


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.co.uk. 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 2018-19

The financial support settlement from the Wales Government for Flintshire County Council, for the financial year of 2018-19 balanced against the basic/essential needs of the county in that period, originally left a gap of something close to £14Million. Some paring, pruning and cutting back, on staffing and on services and systems, has reduced that, as we enter 2018, to around £9Million. Despite some energetic lobbying of our latest Minister for Local Government and the Finance Minister, by our Chief Executive Officer and the Leader of Council, little has come of those efforts. The results of that situation, whereby this county is almost right at the bottom of the funding list for the 22 county councils in Wales, leaves little option other than for further dwindling in staff numbers, the cutting back or cessation of previously provided services, or the commencement of charging for them, such as the introduction of the proposed £30 annual charge per brown bin, which will now be implemented as of this coming April. That is the only way in which the county will be able to achieve its legally imposed duty to produce a financially balanced budget. To achieve that necessary balance between income and expenditure, there will be a requirement to dig somewhat into the county’s unallocated reserves, a situation which is undesirable and cannot be repeated as a habit.

Lets talk politics

It is of interest to councillors and many residents of Wales, that the latest Local Government Minster, Alun Davies, A.M., who rather quietly replaced Mark Drakeford, just a few short months ago, appears to be continuing with the policy of “Regionalisation by Collaboration.” Little or nothing seems to have been decided from the consultation paper, “The Future of Local Government In Wales,” which was issued on 31st January, 2017 and remained open until 11th April, 2017. In that consultation, the then Minister advanced the intention to move towards enforced, if not voluntary, regional arrangements to deal with an assortment of Operational Disciplines. Those could include Planning, Procurement, Legal Services, Education, Highways, Housing, Social Services and so on, which Cardiff had decided would be better re-organised into regional frameworks rather than being let to individual county authorities.


The document envisaged having single Chief Officers in each Discipline at Regional Level, rather than one Chief Officer in each of the individual counties within the Regions. The map of the potential Regions shows that, originally, 4 Regions were proposed; North, Mid, South East and South West. More recently, what is appearing seems to be a move towards just 3 Regions, North, Mid and South Wales. Just how large those Regional Assemblies will be in elected councillor numbers has yet to be stated, but I would bet on them being no more than 30 to 50 strong. Just how any proper ”Scrutiny” of operational matters or even regional policies might be managed is unclear, but, taking North Wales presently where roughly 90 (6 x 15) councillors are engaged in the scrutiny work, the proposed regionalisation of the assorted Operational Disciplines would likely reduce scrutiny member numbers to 6 or 12 at most. That, of itself, appears to be a retrograde step, given that, with the present “Cabinet” system rather than the previous “Committee” system of decision-making, so much power is concentrated into the hands of so few councillors at county council level, that a great deal of robust scrutiny is essential, in the public interest. If that Cabinet system were to be carried forwards into the proposed Regional Assemblies, the public interest would be unlikely to be well served.


I also do have some concerns that, if implemented as presently outlined, the Regionalisation intentions could eventually bring about the diminution of purpose for, if not total removal of, the upper, County, tier of Local Government as we currently know it. That is because, presently there is a further commission, working on the rationalisation of Town and Community Council structures in Wales. Currently, there are +-735 such councils in the country. They represent greater and lesser numbers of people and greater or lesser areas geographically; basically the difference being between the urban centres and the more rural districts. This Boundary Commission has, as one of its aims, to reduce the 735 to somewhere towards 100, by combining wards and councils, not by dividing them.


There appears to be a target size for each such council of 12,500 voters, +-5%. There is a feeling among existing councillors that the difference in population density between urban and rural areas may not work too well with that intention. Along with fewer councils, with greater powers, it looks as though there will be far fewer councillors also. Clearly much work has yet to be done on this activity and much remains to be negotiated and decided, in a fairly short timescale by the new cohort of AMs and Ministers elected and appointed some 18 months back, as a result of the May 2016 Assembly Elections.


One of my major concerns for the future, when I study the current raft of proposals, as a whole, is the loss of “Localism,” if, as, and whenever, the Regionalisation re-arrangements come into effect, which appears to be targeted towards finalisation by 2022. Another is that should a dozen or so “Disciplines” of the like of Education, Planning, etc., be regionalised and moved upwards to regions, out of county level activity and then another raft of “Duties and Responsibilities” presently delivered at that level be off-loaded to the fewer, enlarged, “Common Councils,” no additional funding will defer downwards; but those Common Councils will be required to raise their precepts (local rates) by significant levels, in order to fund the greater responsibilities, which they could do as they are not capped to an annual increase of 5% maximum as county councils currently are. As a suspicious-minded ex-copper, I shall believe that our pockets are safe from further plunder only when I read that fact in some enactment out of the Wales Government. Pigs might fly?

 

Much has been said, in the course of history, about change. Progress, betterment, improvement, have all been bywords for those protagonists of perpetual change over the centuries. More often than not, change and rapid change again has resulted in chaos and confusion, rather than improved efficiency, economy and better value for money in the provision of services for the public. What we all want is best value for the public pennies that we councillors ultimately are responsible for spending. In that regard, as we have now said goodbye to 2017 and entered into 2018, it would seem that the latest Minister’s thinking is leaning more firmly towards three, rather than four “Regions” within Wales. If there is no clear guidance appearing shortly, one way or the other, I can see further vast sums of public money being wasted as a result of indecision by both elected and officer elements of the WAG down in Cardiff.


Thus, yet again, we all wait to see. Keep your fingers crossed, perhaps, but, please don't hold your breath, because as if that little lot I have commented on above were not enough to engage us all in a little bit of head-scratching, the then Minister floated another Consultation Document in July, 2017, entitled, “Electoral Reform in Local Government in Wales”. I can only hope that lots of residents did respond to, before the date it closed, which was 10th October, 2017. In its 34 pages there were 46 questions, starting off with whether or not the age of voting should be lowered to 16. Goodness only knows when we shall learn of the outcome of that consultation.


On that theme of constant change, FCC has for more than a year, been trying various ways to economise in the face of year on year dwindling support funding from the WAG in Cardiff. Community Asset Transfers and other Alternative Delivery Methods of non-statutory services have appeared. The latest has been the creation of a Community Interest Group, a not-for profit organisation, called AURA, which took over responsibility for the county’s Libraries and Leisure Services, as of 1st September, 2017. On that date, some 291 or so staff moved from FCC’s employment, via the “TUPE” legislative process, to become employed by the new company, which hopes to expand and improve library and leisure services under their fresh umbrella. Aura will receive some support grant funds from FCC in the short term. Given the essential need for library and leisure activities in our communities, one can only wish them well and hope to see them prosper and grow.


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

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