1) Time Flies!:-

If ever there was an abiding truism, the one about time flying by has to be a contender for the leading spot. As I type this at the beginning of November, I have to accept that some of the material may be “Old Hat” by the time the newsletter is completed, printed and eventually delivered to you a lot closer to Christmas. With the Christmas and New Year holidays looming, I hope both go well for you and yours, so that you can look back at them in 2024 with a smile on your face and a warm glow in your heart.



2) Something of a Problem:-

I am sure that readers will be well aware that Flintshire County Council, on your behalf and hopefully for your betterment, spends hundreds of millions of pounds sterling each year. That is done by means of our Annual Budget, which covers the period of the Financial Year, April to March, rather than the Calendar Year of January to December. In simple terms, each year’s budgeted activities are made up of statutory duties and optional items. However, whatever the shape or size of our annual budget, we, the pairing of Officers and Councillors, are legally bound to produce and deliver a Financially Balanced Budget, where income and expenditure match and our reserve funds are adequate too.

Ever since the “Financial Crash” of 2008, that task of balancing foreseeable expenditure with expected income has become more and more of a problem as each year has passed by. In the face of a growing and, to be objective, an aging, population, alongside degrading buildings, particularly those now afflicted by the RAAC crumbling concrete problem, which is not solely confined to our schools, we have needed to cover a plethora of right and proper pay rises for staff and the same increases in gas and electricity prices, which you readers are battling with. All of those and more, such as Brexit and the Covid epidemic, in the face of annually dwindling financial support from the Wales Government.

We began to look towards the Annual Budget for 2024-2025, a few months ago, at which time we were looking at a potential shortfall of some £32million. However, after some diligent analysis, including a cautious pruning of staff and services in the coming financial year, we have been able to reduce that sizeable figure to a lesser, but still worrying one of £14million at this moment in time.

The financial situation is unlikely to be fully settled until the middle of December, but, with us Councillors determined to keep the increase in Community Charge at a level no greater than 5% for the coming financial year, we must look towards the Wales Government to make a better offer of support than that currently indicated, if we are to be able to avoid any reduction of the funding for our Education Department, which is our greatest cost.

Mind you, the county’s financial situation is not helped by the apparently growing number of residents who seem determined, I hope purely out of lack of knowledge about how our financial management really works, to shoot all of us in the foot financially, by creating quite un-necessary costs for the county, which means you and me. Let me give you two examples. Firstly, take the matter of the 20MPH road signs. The blanket 20MPH limit may be unwanted and unpopular among drivers, but for those of whatever age who are covering the signs in black paint, please do give a thought of the costs being imposed upon county’s Streetscene Department whose officers are required to clean off the paint, in order to make the signs legible and legal. Secondly, going back just a few years, Flintshire was very near the top of the league table for recycling in Wales. Regrettably, since then, our recycling figures have fallen year-on-year.


Two years back we failed to reach the volume demanded by the Wales Government. As a result, that body imposed a £400,000 infraction charge on the county. This last year, our collective volume of recycling fell even more, so the Wales Government imposed another infraction charge, this time at £700,000. That total of £1.1Million in two years is very likely to be reflected in whatever level of Community Charge we eventually settle on, which, of course, us residents end up paying.



3) Pie In The Sky and Jam Tomorrow?:-

I make no claim to be anything near to an astute politician. My background in policing and management mitigates against that. My skills lie in management and organisation and a certain feel for any and all people in genuine need. However, I do take a keen interest in what our assorted political parties promise us, against what they really seem to be aiming for once they end up in power.

Now that both the Conservative and Labour Annual Conferences have come and gone, there has been a strange similarity in that both are promising us voters ample pie in the sky and jam tomorrow, without any apparent roadmap of how nor any clearly workable timetable for achieving either of their stated sets of aims. The nation was just settling into “Lockdown” caused by the Covid Pandemic when Sir Keir Starmer took over the leadership of the Labour Party. At that point he was bright-eyed and eager. His speeches of the time were full of assurances that once in power, Labour would provide us with a better and brighter future, steered along a morally ethical and socialistic pathway.

Now, just some three years on, his leadership style is showing signs of change. Maybe it is the future possibility of actually ending up in power after the next general election, which lurks ahead within the near future that has made him back-track on such previous promises as stopping the Rosebank North Sea oil and gas development, seeing to the removal of university fees for students, ending the charitable status for Private Schools and carrying out a broad re-nationalisation programme of Utilities and Transport, which has now become aimed solely at the national railway network.

As for the Conservatives, early on, when they were heading for governmental power, apart from the matter of Brexit, which Boris managed to get all wrong as far as The Deal went, they were going to make the UK a world leader in edging us away from the use of fossil fuels and the use of diesel and petrol cars, targeted for 2030. As of now they have moved that vehicle date to 2035, licenced the Rosebank North Sea Oil and Gas production, to a company controlled by the Norwegian Government, given the okay for exploration of oil and gas underground in the UK, close to the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and given the okay for the new coal mine in Cumbria. None of that little lot will help our nation, or the world, to avoid going above the predicted dangerous level of a 1.5 Degrees global temperature rise by 2050.

Regrettably, neither party has demanded that the major international producers of oil and gas and coal should now present their detailed and workable plans for transitioning to renewable energy production in the foreseeable future.

Sound management calls for taking a good long and hard look over the horizon in timescale. Regrettably, what we are seeing, certainly from the two major political parties appears to be a short-sighted concentration on each next general election and very little else.

That is not good for us, our children, our grandchildren or the further generations beyond them, let alone the climate right across our planet.



4) Another case of Where Does Our Money Go To?:-

Readers of my previous newsletters will be aware that I am a supporter of The Good Law Project, which does its best to call the government to account when our elected leaders indulge in dodgy doings.

The latest one reported upon reveals that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has paid £137million in hidden payments to a firm owned by Frank Hester, the healthcare tech tycoon. Hester, who was not long ago found to have given a £5million donation to the Conservative Party in early September of this year, has received around £800,000 a week payable to his company, Phoenix Partnership.Those considerable payments to Hester’s company have not been previously reported.

Good Law Projects researchers calculated the size of these payments,by carefully combing through four years of the department’s data on official payments. The contracts under which the payments were made have not been published on the Government’s official procurement website, “Contracts Finder”. When asked, the DHSC claimed that the payments were made under a “contract framework” and that there is no requirement to publish individual contract awards.

According to the report from The Good Law Project, the accounts of the holding company, which is 100% owned by Frank Hester, reveal that he was paid £10million in dividends last year. Frank Hester wrote, “We are here for our NHS. We are here to help, not to drive profits for shareholders or to grease revolving doors.”

The government’s VIP Lane, a system for fast-track access to contracts, which was declared illegal in a Court case brought by the Good Law Project not long ago, saw many controversial contracts given to Conservative Party donors, without any semblance of competitive tendering.
Frank Hester was approached for a comment on what had been revealed, but so far nothing has been received by The Good Law Project team.
The Good Law Project’s Executive Director, Jo Maugham said recently, “We’ve been shining a light on the donor’s money-go-round since the pandemic, but the huge size of Hester’s donation makes it stand out for its sheer ugliness.”

Just in case any reader might be thinking that “One Swallow does not make a Summer”, please have a read of the following report, originating with His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Department (HMRC) and passed around by the public interest group entitled TAXJUSTICE.UK, who give credit to The Guardian newspaper for publishing the article, which goes thus:-

The Conservative donors who own the JCB digger company may be hit with a £500million tax bill. It seems that officers from HMRC have been investigating brothers Anthony and Mark Bamford’s extensive offshore business empire for over three years. The brothers are alleged to have aggressively minimised the payment of UK taxes, thus creating a situation whereby HMRC may seek to recoup large sums of lost tax if the allegations are proven correct.

It is likely that the surfacing of the allegations above were the cause of a Labour MP, in September just gone, asking if the Conservative Party would return the £10million donated to them by JCB, which is just one of the number of sizeable multinational companies, such as Microsoft and Amazon, operating in and earning profits from within the UK, yet paying far less tax here than they pay elsewhere across the world. Interestingly, in a recent report published by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, it reported that something up to £42billion could be missing from the national fiscus because of unpaid taxes. The report stated that in their opinion, HMRC did not have enough staff to properly investigate the underpayment of taxes by multinational organisations. The Committee pointed out that for every £1 invested in HMRC’s investigations, £18 was recovered in additional tax.

If I were in Government, clearly presented with an opportunity to bring in perhaps £42billion, usable for public benefit, just by providing more staff to HMRC, that action would be high on my priority list. The fact that our present Government are not doing so raises questions of why not. Maybe a great reluctance to bite the hands that feed them?



5) Safety On Our Roads:?

Over the last several months, in my role as co-ordinator for the small number of members of Buckley’s Community Speedwatch Team, I have been asked by a number of local residents what has become of our roadside activities. Others have asked if we can do some speed monitoring on the road where they live because traffic seems to be travelling at speeds way above the now legally binding 20mph limit on residential and town centre roads, other than those now exempted from the 20mph speed limit.

As far as the suspension of our roadside activities goes, what happened was that shortly after the lower speed limit on many roads came into legal effect, all CSW activity right across Wales was suspended by order of GoSafe, until further notice. Presently, we are still stood down. The reason for the blanket suspension of activities was apparently because of the clearly angry attitude of a vast number of drivers over being “slowed down” and a worry that CSW team members might be subjected to something more damaging than the usual verbal comments and finger gestures which a minority of drivers have directed at us ever since we first appeared at the roadside, way before the imposition of the blanket 20mph situation.


As far as the perception of pedestrians and householders that many drivers are not paying much, if any, regard to the 20mph limit, all that I can say, from my own experience of driver behaviour since the blanket 20mph rule came in, is that I too am experiencing more poor and even dangerous driving than ever before. I hesitate to ascribe that solely to the 20mph issue, given the latest reports from police circles which set out that something over 40% of drivers stopped and checked recently have been found to be over the limit for drugs of one kind or another and often a combination of drugs.

Continuing on the matter of road safety, the number of roadside signs, which are presently partially or totally obscured by foliage of one kind or another gives cause for concern for every driver, particularly at this time when the application of “exceptions” to the 20mph speed limit are now being signposted on certain local roads, such as Church Road here in Buckley. Regarding that road, I am already getting telephone calls, pointing out how plain daft, even irritating it is to encounter changes of the indicated legal speed limit “every hundred yards” as one clearly annoyed caller put it.

On that issue, I can assure readers that I have passed on to Streetscene staff the annoyances and irritations of those who have contacted me.



6) Buckley In General:-

Item 1) To repeat an item from my previous newsletter, please be assured that the battle to bring back a real live Bank to the town centre is continuing and that us councillors and other interested groups will not cease our combined efforts until we have succeeded, no-matter how long it takes. I am the first to concede that with the ever-increasing cost of liquid fuels for cars alongside rising energy costs for those who have gone electric, keeping motoring milage down is sensible. If we then add to that, the extra time burden of getting to the Mold banks while adhering to the 20mph speed limit and trying to find a parking space in Mold at almost any time, the increasing use of on-line banking facilities by local residents can be easily understood. However, there are various banking services which cannot be accessed on-line. Not only that, but there are still a significant number of residents, mostly older ones, who do not possess computers and/or smartphones.

Item 2) The planning application submitted some months ago to convert the disused Methodist Church at the junction of Brickfields and Spon Green into housing was refused at the end of April. At the time of writing this, the applicant does not appear to have lodged any appeal with Planning Wales down in Cardiff, so, for the moment it is a case waiting to see whether they do take up the Appeal Process option, or not, before time for such runs out.

Item 3) In January of 2021, the owners of the one-time functioning Factory Shop withdrew an application for work which appeared to be intended to get that commercial location up and running again. County Council entered into discussion with the owners after that, in an attempt to purchase the building, repair it, then rent it out and bring it back as another, additional, retail offering of one kind or another. Regrettably, just as progress appeared to be being made, the owners pulled out of the negotiations. However, shortly after they pulled out of the offer to buy the building from FCC, the owners put up “To Let” signs. Given that the building originally became unfit for use allegedly due to a leaking roof, which prevented any full use of the upstairs floor level and the fact that there has been no sign of any roofing repairs lately, one can only hope that the building will be brought back to full use in the foreseeable future, to extend the retail offer along that part of Brunswick Road, rather than being just left to be an unhappy eyesore.

Item 4) The battle to obtain some sensible and safe parking arrangements and/or safe traffic flow for residents living on Chester Road between Brook Street and the Willowdale Residential Rest Home is still ongoing, but so far, no workable solution has been found. From my own experience of driving that awkward stretch of road on more than one occasion recently, I am of the personal opinion that the appearance of the 20mph speed limit has made matters worse rather than better.

Item 5) On the opposite side of Brunswick Road to the Tivoli building the house which is usually referred to as The Priest’s House will shortly be changing somewhat in nature. Months ago, a planning application to make changes was refused by Flintshire County Council’s planning committee. A subsequent appeal was also turned down. However, more lately a further application for a change of use into a house in multiple occupation has been granted by the county council’s Chief Planning Officer. That will result in adaptations which will see the building being altered to accommodate seven bedrooms to form a house in multiple occupation. Concerns that such change will create greater parking problems along Brunswick Road were considered but dismissed by both the council’s planning officer and by the Wales Planning Inspectorate.

Item 6) In Flintshire’s Local Development Plan (LDP) one site approved by the Inspector at the public inquiry, was for a minimum of 140 dwellings in the field alongside Well Street, close to the junction with Bryn Awelon. Fresh plans have now been submitted for 155 dwellings on that field. The plans show an intended roundabout on Well Street, with another access point via Daleside. Just how fast that development will progress is unclear. There is a groundswell of objection from local residents, over likely traffic congestion on Well Street and Rose Lane, the added burden on already stretched public services ranging from health to education and beyond. but, having been approved as part of the county council’s LDP and with the availability of an appeal process via Planning Inspectorate Wales, the application will be difficult fend off for those who are of the belief that it should not go ahead. Clearly a case of “Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath!”

Item 7) Hard on the tail of Item 7, Mr. Brian Jones of Bryn-y-Pys Farm, part of the land of which adjoins that previous item, has submitted a planning application to make the field adjacent to the proposed 155 houses into a 90-day limited stay site for use by members of the Travelling Community. If approved, that planning application and the 155 houses okayed for the field next door, will likely provide some interesting moments for motorists when using Well Street or Rose Lane as routes in and out of the town.

Item 8) The Buckley Old Baths Building. Following on from Mary Wright’s excellent and diligent work, several years ago, in pouring through the old documents in the Records Office in Hawarden, the town council was able to fend off the attempt by county council at that time, to sell the building to a developer, for the purposes of tearing it down and building one or two more blocks of flats. A limited company was formed, with 5 town councillors of the time becoming Directors. Their task was to see to the conversion of the building into a multi-purpose community hall for the benefit of all of the town’s residents.

Between then and now, the three remaining Directors, Councillors Carol Ellis, Dennis Hutchinson and Mike Peers, have struggled to make progress with the project, despite their best endeavours. Their efforts to obtain Charitable Status for the project failed. That meant that National Lottery funding was not available. The result was that in June of this year the three Directors sought assistance from both the town and county councils, because the greatest problem is in finding a source, or sources, of funding to pay for the conversion work. Your town council has already assisted the Directors over the past several years by funding the insurance on the building, give or take £5,000 per year. That was permissible within financial rules, because The Old Buckley Baths building is inextricably linked to the entirety of the Town Council Building, the façade of which is Listed.

Regrettably, whatever the building is finally morphed into, for operational purposes, one of its problems in attracting footfall is bound to be a certain lack of any great quantity of public car parking close by.

Item 9) Just to prove for you that the town council building is no different to your own homes in suffering degradation within and without over the years, the boiler which provided heating for both ground floor rooms and the Chamber and the office areas above, decided recently to cease functioning. With colder weather not far away and bearing in mind our corporate responsibility to be a diligent employer and landlord, tenders were promptly called for. That has resulted in a company being awarded the task of replacing the old, failed, boiler and getting the building warmed up again, asap! The bill for that work is a little over £13,000.

Item 10) For those readers who may have missed the recent newspaper reports, a couple of months back, your town council formally took upon itself the power to create “Freemen” and “Freewomen” of Buckley, to honour those residents of the town who, over the years, have worked hard to benefit the town and its residents. While the award is not solely for Councillors, my thoughts immediately turned towards Mr. John Thornton, who, until he decided not to stand for election a few years back, had served some 39 years as a Town Councillor for Buckley and a total of 53 years in all as a Councillor, when we add his years of service on Alyn & Deeside District Council. Councillor Thornton, as he was, worked hard, alongside then Councillor Brettell Newton, to enable the flats now located within Newthorn Place to be built, that name of “Newthorn” being a part of each of their surnames. John Thornton was not only instrumental in getting the older persons’ bungalows of Jubilee Court built, but also in getting the originally modestly sized community hall therein sensibly expanded to its currently more usable size. My research also threw up many other activities he helped along, either just as Councillor or during his three turns as Mayor of Buckley Town.

All of that led me to formally nominate John Thornton for installation as our first Freeman of the Town at our September Town Council meeting. I was pleased that Political Party divides were set aside by all attending, which resulted in my nomination of John Thornton being approved unanimously. As a result, prior to the commencement of ordinary business at the Town Council’s monthly meeting on the evening of Tuesday 24th October, Lord Barry Jones kindly offered his time to make the presentation of the award of Freeman of Buckley Town to the now centenarian Mr. John Thornton.



8) Odd, But Just Possible Maybe?:-

In my many years in Central Africa, as a District Police Officer, I was continually aware of and surprised by, the cheerfulness, and unfailingly good behaviour of the youngsters, particularly the teenagers. They made toys out of scraps of wire and wood, played non destructive games and were unfailingly polite to their elders and amiable within their peer groups. There simply was no such thing as “Anti-Social Behaviour”.


I commented to that effect in a recent conversation with a very qualified psychologist. His view was that out there, when an infant was not at their mother’s breast, they were on their mother’s back and in close contact until they could walk and even beyond. Driven by that warm, comforting presence, the synapses in their brains developed within an umbrella of reassurance, placidity and contentment as they encountered the strangeness of the world about them. In this country, the newborn, in their first few weeks of life are either put into prams or pushchairs. If either of those two items has the child facing the parent, all well and good, because they can see and sense that the parent is unconcerned, so the synapses in their brains develop along the lines of peacefulness, contentment and reassurance. However, if they are faced away from the parent, the world is strange, worrying and alarming, creating fright, worry concern and anger in their developing minds, which eventually leads to an attitude, particularly in teenage years, of resentment, anger and mistrust of everything and the people around them too.

Could he be right I wonder?



Not Wanting To See?:-

The long-standing belief that there are none so blind as those who do not wish to see appears to be clearly demonstrated by the perverse behaviour of our current Government in the face of the very real threat of Climate Change. Just recently the UK Government ratified the UN’s High Seas Treaty directed at banning mining activities on the seabed. However, following a bidding round, the Government Agency, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) on 30th October, 2023, issued 27 Licences to a list of companies, including Shell, (with most of them!), Equinor, DNO, Ithaca, Total Energy and BP, each wishing to explore in parts of the North Sea, seeking what they believe to be financially viable deposits of oil and gas which they wish to exploit in years ahead. Prime Minister Sunak, when challenged about it, claimed that this “Was the right thing to do!” I wonder who for, because, are we not, globally, needing to move away, preferably rapidly, from our present dependency on Coal, Oil and Gas and turn to Renewable Energy sources of Sun, Wind and Water if we are to avoid, by 2050, the worst effects of Climate Change? I leave readers to ponder upon the matter.

I choose not to be active on Social Media platforms. However, if you have problems and need a word of information, 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 me 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 arnoldwoolley@outlook.com. You are also very welcome to visit my website at www.arnoldwoolley.com.


Back to top


Home | News | Biography | Independant Alliance | News | Contact Arnold Woolley | Site Map | Local Affairs | Useful Links