1) The Numbers Game:

Some many months ago, the Welsh Assembly, currently moving to change their name to the “Senedd,” set in motion a “Local Democracy And Boundary Commission For Wales”, tasked with looking at county council ward boundaries, the numbers of county councillors and the number of voters each councillor represents, or should represent.

That commission has now produced a report of their initial findings and provided some indication of their present thinking. For Flintshire, they are currently proposing a county council of 65 members, down 5 from the current 70. Given the current population of the county on the voters’ role, this will mean that, in theory, each councillor will represent 1,836 electors. The number of electoral wards in the county will drop from the present 57 down to 39. If the recommendations remain unchanged, there will be 17 wards with just one county councillor, 22 wards with two county councillors and 4 wards with three county councillors. What is of direct interest to and impact upon Buckley is that two of those 4 Wards of three county councillors are proposed for our town.

If the initial recommendations of the Commission remain unchanged, by 2022, the present 4 wards within Buckley will decrease to just 2. Each will have 3 county councillors, making a total of 6, down 1 from the present 7. This will be achieved by merging Pentrobin ward with Mountain ward, merging Bistre East Ward together with Bistre West and allocating 3 county councillors to each of those newly enlarged wards.
While that may not seem an earth-shattering change, it is what goes along with that which is of greater concern. The Commissioners, supported by the Wales Government, are intent upon creating “parity” within our electoral system, whereby each elected member at county level will represent the 1,836 electors mentioned above. That figure is derived from the total voter population of Flintshire at this time, divided by the 65 county councillors they are recommending. That approach is purely a mathematical one. It is only realistic and efficient in relation to those 17 wards within Flintshire, or elsewhere, which will have a single county councillor. As far as Flintshire is concerned, for the 22 wards which will have two councillors and the 4 which will have three, the blindly theoretical apportionment of each county councillor representing, or having his or her workload purely from 1,836 electors, is simply pie-in-the-sky.

In a perfect electoral world, all councillors, across the nation, would work within single councillor wards having equal numbers of electors to care for and represent. However, what we do all recognise is that the world is not perfect, particularly in the arena of political representation, at any level.
Two-councillor wards work reasonably well, particularly where the councillors are of the same political philosophy, as are Cllr. Richard Jones and I, both being Independents, the picture changes where differing political opinions are held exist or councillors may be un-interested in working together.

The three-councillor wards now proposed for Buckley will be, by 2022, heading for electoral populations of close to 7,000. The area needing to be covered for canvassing, or even delivering newsletters such as this one, will also have doubled, entailing twice the time to get around. The sheer size of the proposed wards will mitigate against anyone less than fully able-bodied standing as a would-be councillor. That of itself flies in the face of the calls from the Wales Government for greater diversity in the local government body politic. That greater time burden will also hit hard at the opportunity for any fully employed individual to take up and efficiently deal with the demands of being a county councillor. With electors indulging in the habit of taking their problems to each of their ward councillors, the officers at county hall will find their workload increased significantly due to every one of the ward’s councillors coming at them over problems and having to feed back answers to each of them.
I am at least able to close this section by advising that the town’s present 7 county councillors and almost all of the Town Councillors are opposed to the initial recommendaional numbers and retain the four wards within the town.

tions of the Commission and are representing as hard as we can for any one of the more sensible options which we have put forward, which all even out the representat

2) ”Pensioned-Off!” or “Pensions-are-Off?:

According to a recent report from the Centre for Social Justice, which is a centre-right think-tank close to Government, the State Pension age should be increased to 75 in order to boost the economy by £182bn. The think-tank which is chaired by the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith (known as IDS), calls for a ‘reconceptualization of what ageing and old-age means’.

Their new report, entitled “Ageing Confidently – Supporting an Ageing Workforce”, argues that people are living longer today and yet the state pension age is roughly the same as it was 100 years ago. The report recommends increasing the retirement age to 70 by 2028 and to 75 by 2035. It says that boosting employment rates among older people would reduce the cost of benefits and boost our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by approximately 9% (£182bn).

The cost of the UK state pension system in 2018 was 42% of the total welfare spend – £92bn. This is an increase of £75bn in a thirty-year period. The Department for Work and Pensions currently spends £7bn a year on out of work benefits for those above the age of 50. ‘Working longer has the potential to improve health and wellbeing, increase retirement savings and ensure the full functioning of public services for all,’ said Andy Cook, chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). ‘Right now, we are not doing enough to help older people stay in work and the state pension age doesn’t even closely reflect healthy working life expectancy’.

‘All generations deserve to be supported in their choices and the current lack of support for older members of the UK workforce is both socially inexcusable and economically short sighted. By increasing the State Pension Age, we can help people stay in gainful and life enhancing employment, while also making a sound long term financial decision.’

As one would expect, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner criticised the proposal on Twitter as ‘completely outrageous’.
From my point of view, there are arguments both ways. Put simply and setting aside the matters of occupational pensions and current early retirement options while still in good health, our basic State Pensions should be at a level which the nation can afford and state-funded retirees can live on, comfortably, even if carefully. If future years can achieve that, it will be a fair outcome all round.

3) Youth Service Funding:

In a recently published report, the young person’s charity YMCA has warned that spending on local youth services is at ‘breaking point’ with an almost 70% decrease in funding in a decade.
An analysis of 84 councils across the UK reveals that while the average budget allocation for youth services per local authority in 2010 was £7.79m, the planned average spending for 2019/20 is just £2.45m. This represents a 69% decline in spending.

According to YMCA, 29% of local authorities have planned financial cuts that would see their spending on youth services decline by 80% since 2010/11. A vast majority of local authorities, (83%), have deliberately planned to cut their funding in half over the nine-year period.

Youth services offer a vital lifeline within local communities, providing young people with support, advice and a place to go when they need it most,’ said Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales. ‘The year-on-year cuts to youth services are not without consequences and we are already seeing the impact of these cuts in communities across the country.’ YMCA also found that there were quite a few areas with planned spending cuts of 80% or more. Liverpool, for example, is planning cuts of 86%, and Southampton and Gateshead are planning 94% and 96% cuts respectively.

The chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, Cllr Judith Blake, warns that because of Government cuts and priority demand pressures, councils have had to divert money from youth services to children’s social care. “They have been forced to cut spending on youth services, by 52%, from £652m in 2010/11 to £352m in 2017/18,” she said. Referring to the YMCA report, Cllr Blake added: “This report provides further evidence of the need for adequate funding for councils’ youth services to make sure that every young person gets the support they need to live healthy, safe and fulfilling lives.”

All that I can do as a councillor highly concerned over cut-backs to support for youth clubs and youth services in general, is to agree with Cllr. Judith Blake and trust that somewhere down in Cardiff, where they not long ago created a legislative item entitled, “The Welfare of Future Generations Act,” those same legislators might get around to realising that if we, as a nation, fail to invest adequately in the youth of today, their youthful welfare is now and in the future will be, at risk. That is unfair for our youngsters and unwise for the nation’s future.

4) Deaths Among The Homeless:

The number of homeless people dying has increased by 22% in the past year, according to recently released figures,
The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that an estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales last year, up from 597 in 2017. This figure also means that the number of deaths among homeless people has increased by 51% over the last six years.
Connected with that increase, the number of those deaths related to drug poisoning has increased by 55% in the past year, accounting for two in five deaths. Ben Humberstone, head of health analysis and life events at the Office for National Statistics said: “The death of 726 homeless people in England and Wales recorded in 2018 represents an increase of over a fifth on the previous year. That’s the largest rise since these figures began in 2013. A key driver of the change is the number of deaths related to drug poisoning which is up by 55% since 2017, compared to 16%, for the population as a whole.”

The think tank Reform said the figures show government’s current policies are failing. Dr Luke Heselwood, senior Reform researcher, said: “One year on from the flagship Homelessness Reduction Act and the Rough Sleeping Strategy, which were meant to bolster efforts to prevent homelessness, the number of people dying on our streets should not be on the rise. Short-term, hand-to-mouth funding for local services has inhibited council’s efforts to implement this legislation and prevent those at risk from becoming homeless. Long-term sustainable funding for these services is a must to reverse this terrible trend.”

John Glenton, executive director of care and support for The Riverside Group, commented that early intervention was key to cutting the number of deaths. “Analysis of rough sleeper figures earlier this year showed that areas which received additional Rough Sleeper Initiative funding saw the number of rough sleepers fall by almost a quarter (23%) on average – almost halfway to the Government’s manifesto pledge to halve rough sleeping by 2020,” he said. “However, statistics released earlier this year also show that the number of households in temporary accommodation increased by 5% to the highest level for more than 11 years. In order to tackle our country’s homelessness crisis we need to see significant and sustained funding increases for rough sleeper services, supported housing, mental health and substance misuse services, and affordable housing.” The figures show that the highest numbers of deaths among homeless people were recorded in London and the North West region. The number of deaths in these two regions equated to a third of the total number. John Leech, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Manchester, said: “Today's figures highlight the gross incompetence and lack of proper prioritisation by local and national politicians. Not only is it a complete embarrassment, but it exposes the deeply worrying, critical and consistent failure of a local and national system that simply doesn’t care.’

5) Government Announces Review into Benefits of HS2:

The future of the high-speed HS2 rail project is to be decided once and for all by the findings of an independent review which are expected to be announced by the end of this current year. The review, which is being chaired by the former HS2 Board Chairman Mr. Douglas Okervee, will consider
the benefits, affordability and scope of the HS2 scheme, as well as its phasing, including its relationship with the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme.
In particular, it will take a view on whether HS2 is in a position to deliver the scheme effectively, assessing both the opportunities for efficiencies as well as the direct costs of cancellation, with a view to providing “clear advice” to Government on the future of the project.

It will also probe the assumptions underpinning the original business case for the scheme and look at whether there are alternative strategic
transport schemes which would achieve comparable benefits in a similar timescale. The announcement follows the declaration of prime minister Boris Johnson during the Conservative leadership campaign that he wished to review “whether and how we proceed” with the scheme ahead of the government’s decision on phase one, the London to West Midlands section, which is due by the end of the year.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said that an “independent and rigorous” review of the scheme was required, which would allow the government to make properly informed decisions on the future of phases one and two of the project. “The prime minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits,” he said. Earlier this week, the IPPR North think-tank said that phase two of the project must begin in the north to allow the acceleration of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would use planned HS2 infrastructure.

Regional leaders have warned that a failure to proceed with the second phase of the project, which would see the line extended from the West Midlands to Crewe and Manchester, and between Birmingham and Leeds, would be disastrous for local economies. Tim Farron, ex-leader of the Lib Dems and the party’s spokesperson for the North, said building better infrastructure across the North was “vital” to rebalance the economy. “For the Conservatives to even suggest cancelling HS2 is a slap in the face for people living across the North,” Farron said. “HS2 is far from perfect. It needs to have greater transparency and accountability so the public know what’s happening with their money, but that does not mean the project should be consigned to the scrapheap.” The government said limited, largely preparatory, works on the project would continue in parallel with the review, which is expected to report in the autumn. Alongside Mr Oakervee and deputy chair, Labour peer Lord Berkeley, the review panel will consist of experts including Network Rail chairman Peter Hendy, economist Andrew Sentance and West Midlands mayor Andy Street. Although members of the panel would be consulted on the report’s conclusions, none would have a veto in the event that a consensus could not be reached, the government said.

6) Results from July’s truck and bus checking operation show big rise in drink and drug offences

A WEEK-LONG police safety operation across UK and Europe has led to the removal from the roads of some 1,326 trucks and buses for dangerous defects. The action followed checks of more than 322,772 trucks across 27 countries between 22 and 28 July. Co-ordinated by TISPOL, the European Road Policing Network, the operation saw police carrying out a wide range of safety inspections that focused on speeding, alcohol, drugs, seatbelt use, tachograph infringements, excess weight, dangerous loading and document offences.

Altogether, 18.2 per cent of the 200,298 trucks and 6.9 per cent of the 122,474 buses checked by officers had some form of violation against the rules.

The number of drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs (257) has increased considerably since 2018, when there were 147 offences detected in a similar European week-long operation.

A total of 44,745 offences were reported, including the following:

257 drivers for alcohol and drug offences
5,680 instances of drivers exceeding their maximum permitted time at the wheel 266 manipulations of digital tachographs 4,801 examples of incorrect tachograph management.

1,756 overweight trucks and 1,514 insecure loads. Of the 2,929 trucks prohibited from continuing their journeys, most were because of technical defects on the vehicles. Officers checking buses recorded 685 cases of missing documents, 1,146 seatbelt offences, 1,634 speeding violations and 332 technical defects. TISPOL president Volker Orben said: “TISPOL is committed to safer, more secure roads across Europe. Key to this is improved monitoring of large goods vehicles, their drivers and their cargoes. We know that the vast majority of truck drivers and operators take a pride in the quality and safety of their work and we strive to support them. We find they value the work we do, and co-operation with them at the roadside is generally excellent.

“It is against the less scrupulous operators, who put profits first and who will cut safety corners in the process, that our efforts are focused. We are also working to ensure a more consistent enforcement of current laws governing large goods vehicle safety.”

7) Fraud, Yes, but Action, No!:

Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, has been heavily criticised for the way it treats the victims of fraud. In August, The Times newspaper published an article by one of their reporters who had been sent, undercover, to work at Concentrix which runs Action Fraud’s day-to-day operations. The reporter found that victims who phoned in were routinely mocked and called “morons” and “screwballs” by low-wage call-centre staff pretending to be police officers.

Staff were banned from telling victims that the majority of their cases were dismissed, instead giving the impression that their case would be investigated further. Call-centre employees themselves chose whether a victim’s case was filed as a crime report or the less serious information report, which was unlikely to receive a follow-up. The Times article said crime reports were likely to be passed to fraud investigators only if there was a high chance of a suspect being caught. Most were rejected by call-centre staff, or by an algorithm which the reports were put to.

In 2018 there were an estimated 3.6 million incidents of fraud reported, but as few as one in 50 fraud cases lead to a suspect being caught. Action Fraud was set up and is funded by The Home Office. It is supposed to be supervised by the City of London Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), but its incoming phone-call activities have been outsourced to a call-centre in Glasgow, which employs staff with minimal training on £8.50 an hour. The Times reported that staff admitted to being drunk at work and falling asleep on calls.

Commander Karen Baxter, national lead for economic crime at City of London police, said she is “personally leading the review” into the allegations. She said: “The incidents he [the journalist] describes do not represent the standards of work and ethics we expect from anyone associated with the City of London Police. We will be carrying out an immediate examination of standards and requiring our agents to do the same.” She said the “vast majority” of staff do a good job, and she hopes this will not dissuade members of the public from reporting fraud they have fallen victim to. A spokesperson for Concentrix said four people had been suspended following The Times report. She added: “We take these allegations extremely seriously and have launched an immediate investigation. “A small number of isolated incidents have occurred which are not representative of our organisation and our values.”

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which? said: “These reports will be very worrying for people who have been victims of fraud. Too often, victims are left feeling abandoned and confused as investigations drag on with little sign of progress. Our own research estimates only one in 20 cases reported to Action Fraud are solved. While it is right that an investigation has been launched, these disturbing revelations reinforce the need for the government, banks and regulators to move swiftly to introduce better protections for consumers and vital anti-fraud measures like confirmation of payee security checks.”

In response to the Action Fraud report by The Times, APCC Fraud Lead, PCC Clive Grunshaw, and Deputy Fraud Lead, PCC Anthony Stansfeld, said: “Speaking on behalf of all Police and Crime Commissioner colleagues, we are deeply concerned by the content of The Times report on failings in Action Fraud. Victim care should be at the very heart of a whole system approach to combat this vile crime, whereby criminals often target the most vulnerable in our communities.

The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners support the recommendations from the recent HMICFRS thematic inspection of fraud, particularly in relation to Action Fraud and wider victim care. We will be seeking assurances from the City of London Police that the recommendations are being urgently progressed and the allegations in this report are being properly investigated.

Fraud accounts for around a third of all crime in England and Wales with an estimated 3.6 million incidents last year alone, which cost the UK economy an estimated £190 billion. Government needs to ensure a whole system strategy is in place, together with adequate investment, to prevent fraud in the first place and provide a good service to those who fall victim.”

8) Councils sent 2.6 million debts to bailiffs in just one year, charity reveals:

Local authorities in England and Wales have substantially increased their use of bailiffs to collect debts over the last two years, a surge driven by a rise in parking debt referrals. Research by the debt charity Money Advice Trust has revealed that councils sent 2.6 million debts to bailiffs – or enforcement agents – in 2018/19. This is a 7% rise on two years ago. Based on Freedom of Information requests, the study shows that parking debts were passed to bailiffs on nearly 1.1 million occasions – a 21% increase on the same period in 2016/17.Money Advice Trust did find that the number of council tax debts passed to bailiffs remained stable for the first time after a 10% surge during the previous two years. However, the charity warned that the use of enforcement agents to collect council tax debts still remains high at more than 1.4 million referrals in 2018/19. Despite the high use of bailiffs by councils, the debt charity’s report Stop The Knock 2019 notes that there has been ‘modest improvement in practices’, with more councils adopting best practice on affordability and vulnerability.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, warned that bailiff action is ‘harmful to people in debt’. She was reported as saying, ‘While we have seen a modest improvement in debt collection practices – and more councils reducing their use of bailiffs to collect council tax arrears – the pace of change is too slow. Bailiff action should only ever be used as a last resort, and can be avoided by early intervention, making sure residents get the free debt advice they need, and agreeing repayment arrangements that are affordable and sustainable.

We will continue to work constructively with councils to help them reduce their bailiff use – and to impress on central Government the urgent need for the national policy changes that are required to quicken the pace of change.’

Responding to the report, Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of the Civil Enforcement Association, said: ‘This is a broadly positive report that shows that the regulations in enforcement are working well. Welfare reforms and more rigorous debt recovery by local authorities have led to an increase in enforcement activity, but this remains a last resort. Enforcement action is an option used by local authorities to recover over £500m of unpaid taxes and fines recovered each year, at no cost to the public bodies, which funds local services from adult social care and children's services, to refuse collections and road repairs.’

9) What A Cheek!:

The chief executive of Caerphilly County Borough Council has recently been sacked after a six year suspension, on full pay of £137,000, p.a. over ‘unlawful’ pay rises. Anthony O'Sullivan was suspended in March 2013 after a report by the Wales Audit Office concluded that 20% pay rises given to senior officers at the council in 2012 were unlawful on a number of grounds.

Assistant Auditor-General Anthony Barrett found that the Senior Remuneration Committee was not properly advertised in accordance with the Local Government Act. The agendas for the meeting were also not made available for public inspection. He also found that Mr O’Sullivan, his deputy Nigel Barnett and head of legal services Daniel Perkins participated in the committee’s decision making process when they had a disqualifying financial interest.

“Certain officers, including the chief executive, who would have been (and indeed were) beneficiaries of the decision were present at the meeting to approve the salary increases,” he said. “No declarations of interest were made and these officers did not leave the room while the decision was made.”

All three were subsequently arrested on suspicion of fraud and misconduct in public office and suspended from the council on full pay. However, the charges were dropped in 2015. Mr. Barnett and Mr Perkins agreed pay-outs worth £300,000 between them, while Mr O’Sullivan remained on special leave until 4th October 2019, when a Special Meeting of council decided to dismiss him ‘with immediate effect’.
It is estimated that the row has cost the local authority £4m.

“We regret the amount of time and money that has been spent on this matter, but we had no choice other than to follow the agreed statutory process,” said interim council leader Barbara Jones. “It should also be noted that during this time we had to allow criminal investigations to proceed, which added almost two and a half years to the overall time-frame. This decision concludes a very difficult chapter for the council. However, we must now move forward.”

Following on from the decision, Mr O'Sullivan told The BBC he would appeal the decision, and said there had been a 'vicious media campaign' against him.

Since his suspension, Mr O'Sullivan has received nearly £900,000 in salary payments. With legal costs and payouts to the two other officers involved, the cost to the UK’s taxpayers has been estimated at between £4m and £6m.

As if that £900,000 quantity of income, for sitting at home and doing nothing over the past 6 years were not sufficient, on 24th October, 2019, he set in motion a legal action contesting his sacking.

Mr O'Sullivan has since made claims for about £319,000 that will be considered by councillors shortly. The biggest claim is understood to be for payment in lieu of leave since 2013, totalling £159,000. A claim for legal costs of £41,000 along with money claimed for Returning Officer Fees totalling £79,000 have also been submitted. In addition to those claims, other claims include reinstatement of salary from May 2017, for £22,000 and a £15,000 pay award for a chief executive.

A pay rise which Mr O'Sullivan might have been entitled to could take the total to £328,000, which is more than he claimed.

10. Corporate Profits or Corporate Honesty? No Contest!:

The Guardian newspaper recently revealed the 20 fossil fuel companies whose relentless exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.

New data from world-renowned researchers reveals how this cohort of state-owned and multinational firms are driving the climate emergency that threatens the future of humanity, and details how they have continued to expand their operations despite being aware of the industry’s devastating impact on the planet.

The analysis, by Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in the US, the world’s leading authority on big oil’s role in the escalating climate emergency, evaluates what the global corporations have extracted from the ground, and the subsequent emissions these fossil fuels are responsible for since 1965 – the point at which experts say the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known by both industry leaders and politicians.

The top 20 companies on the list have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide, totalling 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) since 1965. Those identified range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell – to state-owned companies including Saudi Aramco and Russia’s Gazprom. Chevron topped the list of the eight investor-owned corporations, followed closely by Exxon, BP and Shell. Together these four global businesses are behind more than 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965.

Twelve of the top 20 companies are state-owned. Together their extractions are responsible for 20% of total emissions in the same period. The leading state-owned polluter is Saudi Aramco, which has produced 4.38% of the global total on its own.
Michael Mann, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, said the findings shone a light on the role of fossil fuel companies and called on politicians at the forthcoming climate talks in Chile in December to take urgent measures to rein in their activities © Guardian

Of the above list of 20 companies, those in positions 1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 18 & 20 are all State-owned. The remainder are Investor-owned.

“The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price – in the form of a degraded planet – so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits. It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen.” The global polluters list uses company-reported annual production of oil, natural gas, and coal and then calculates how much of the carbon and methane in the produced fuels is emitted to the atmosphere throughout the supply chain, from extraction to end use.
It found that 90% of the emissions attributed to the top 20 climate culprits was from use of their products, such as petrol, jet fuel, natural gas, and thermal coal. One-tenth came from extracting, refining, and delivering the finished fuels.

The Guardian approached the 20 companies named in the polluters list. Seven of them replied. Some argued that they were not directly responsible for how the oil, gas or coal they extracted were used by consumers. Several disputed claims that the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known in the late 1950s or that the industry collectively had worked to delay action.

11. What About Buckley Then?:

To keep readers current, without boring you, the following few sub-headings and brief comments will suffice:-

a) Read the Small Print, Please!:
On 6th November of this year the Wales Audit Office published its Final Report in The Public Interest in relation to the council’s Annual Accounts for 2017-18 and the manner in which the council has handled the ongoing, year-by-year, placement of two contracts for Cleaning and the appointment of its Town Manager. The Auditor’s Report sets out in part, that, “In my view, the Council has incurred unlawful expenditure on two cleaning contracts totalling £153,898 since 2005.” Also “In my view, the Council has incurred unlawful expenditure totalling £116,064 on the appointment of its Town Centre Manager. I propose to issue a qualified audit opinion on the 2017-18 accounts.” The full report runs to some 16 pages.
Please do relax, because I and I am sure my councillor colleagues, are content that your public pennies are safe with and wisely spent by Buckley Town Council. Despite lurid newspaper reporting, the Audit Report sets out that our accounts are okay. However, in extending the cleaning contract beyond expiry date, instead of doing a re-tendering exercise, council failed to strictly adhere to its own Standing Orders. We also mixed up “contracted” terms with “employed” terms in the Town Manager’s agreement. Buckley Town Council has neither “lost”, nor “overspent”, any public money.

By the time you read this, councillors will have met, to discuss the report and will have acted to make both arrangements procedurally proper, as recommended by this detailed Audit Report in the public interest. That is all that is required!

b) Calls For De-Pedestrianisation:
It would appear that certain retailers believe that opening up the presently pedestrianised area in the town centre will increase footfall. They are supported by county council officers and cabinet members, but, so far, no firm, costed, or project managed proposals have come forwards. If, as and when such may appear, it must be the decision of the residents which is heard loudest and most. On 5th November I received notice of a Special Meeting of the Town Council, set for 7:00 pm. on 19th November 2019, to formally discuss the potential for de-pedestrianisation. Newspaper reports about that meeting will have appeared by the time you read this.

c) The Old Baths Building Project:
Following the helpful intervention by Cadwyn Clwyd some months back, with their offer of funding for a detailed feasibility study, the Directors of the Old Baths Building Project are awaiting confirmation of a follow up meeting with the appointed consultants who have already met with the Directors and visited the old baths to scope out the building and it’s surrounds. It is expected that the meeting will take place within the next few weeks, when the consultants will present their vision for the renovation and future use of the old baths building.

I can only hope that the meeting produces something positive and pragmatic, which can be publicised in a manner which will assist in the progressing of the project and obtaining of the essential funding which will be needed to see the project to completion.

d) Doubling the Size of Marleyfields Residential Rest Home:
I am delighted to be able to set out that this project has now been approved. Even the necessary funding for it is there. Not likely to be much
happening “on the ground” before Spring of next year, for all sorts of sensible reasons, but, do rest assured that once the weather is again compatible with a major construction project, you will see movement towards the aim of adding a further 32 bed units to the same number which already are there.

e) The Proposed Assisted Living Facility and 14 Bungalows:
The original planning application, for the indicated 70 to 90 bed building, with the bungalows, to be located between The Tivoli and Home Bargains Store, was replaced with planning application number 059739, which is in the form of an “outline” application. That has been “under consideration” since about March of this year, to allow discussions on assorted problematical details, relating to entry/exit points, building height and number of units and possible re-locating of a major town water supply pipe, to be resolved. It is beginning to look as though the application will be put before FCC’s planning committee at the next meeting, on 11th December 2019.

f) Conversion of The Windmill Grill and Bar into Apartments:
It has been sad to see the final closure of this establishment, another victim of changing times, tastes and inclinations. Plans for conversion into a dozen or so individual apartments have now been approved and, with much of the work able to be carried out from within the building, commencement of work on the project will probably not have to wait until winter clears off.

g) Conversion of The Tattoo Parlour on Mold Road into Residential Flats:
Residents may have noted that the Tattoo Parlour almost opposite to the Town Offices on Mold Road has been partially closed for some weeks and that there appear to be internal alteration works going on. That is because the owner wishes to change the premises from a shop to apartments. Discussions between officers and applicant are ongoing as I compile this.

h) This Year’s Fireworks Display:
Tuesday 5th November started off a bit iffy in terms of weather. Fortunately, it cleared up a whole lot, in time to provide a decent, dry, moonlit evening with not too much breeze. The result was the largest crowd ever seen at this annual free event. The evening’s show provided a huge bonfire, a whole array of food-stalls and catering, along with a mini funfair and, from 6:30pm, a continuous barrage of crackles, sizzles, whistles and bangs as hundreds of fireworks zoomed, flared and sparkled their way up into the sky for the next half-hour. As Mayor for the current year, I was privileged to start the annual celebration of the failure of Guy Fawkes’ 1605 attempt to blow up the then house of parliament, complete with its members. To all those who helped arrange this year’s very enjoyable event, to everyone who came from near and afar and to everyone who helped raise just over £1,110:00 for my Mayoral Charities, my grateful thanks

12. Christmas & The New Year:
My wish for all readers and your families is for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May it be one which brings you all that you need, starting with safe travels if you are going away and ending with happy memories of it to carry with you into 2020.


If you have problems and need a word of advice or support, I am always available, 24 hours of the day and seven days of the week, via my home phone number of 01244 549421. If I am out, please leave a recorded message. I will get back to you as soon as I can. I can also be contacted on email at arnold.woolley@flintshire.gov.uk and emailaddytobearranged. You are also very welcome to visit my website at www.arnoldwoolley.com.


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