April 2015

A newsletter for Bistre East Ward residents
From Cllr. Arnold Woolley, DipIM, MCMI
(Member of the Independent Alliance Group)


Please do take the time to read through my observations.
They are intended to keep you, the ratepayers and voters
of the Town and County, up to date on current affairs.


1. What’s Going On in Buckley?

(1) Buckley is still, despite the claims of other localities and certain politicians, the largest single urban area in Flintshire. One of the activities currently in process is that matter of the county’s Local Development Plan for housing for the next five years. “Candidate Sites” have been called for over the past several months and the list of those has now been completed. In coming weeks/months, each of those sites, greater or lesser, whether put in by an individual, or by a major developer, will be considered by a qualified Planning Inspector appointed by the Wales Government. We shall have to wait until the final decisions of the Inspector are known before we know whether Buckley will retain its position as Flintshire’s largest town, or whether somewhere like Hawarden or Shotton might overtake us in terms of housing numbers.

Copies of the list of candidate sites are with your local councillors or can be accessed via Flintshire’s website. If you have an interest in, or concerns about, any particular piece of land near you, feel free to contact me about it by email or phone. (arnooldwoolley@outlook.com or 01244 549421)

The one certainty is that in housing terms, Buckley will grow over the next few years. The worry for the likes of us is whether the “Infrastructure” needed to support that growth will keep pace with the housing. Schools, Doctors, Dentists, Chemists, Chiropodists, or even a corner shop, are not the concern of developers. Development of supportive infrastructure has to come from your Local Authority, namely Flintshire County Council. Let’s hope that Officers and Elected Members, of which I am currently one, keep a close eye on matters of future housing growth.


Continuing on that theme of necessary infrastructure, the Buckley Barn, a.k.a. The New Medical Centre, is now up and running, at long last. A fact to be welcomed by everyone, even if it is where we residents did not want it to be. Regrettably, the Health Board have still not yet produced their “Transport Plan” which residents and councillors called for years ago, to guarantee that old and young could be bussed between the Barn and our town centre by a reliable, frequent, service.


Those of us who have asked have been advised that the transport plan is still emerging. You may rest assured that your Town Councillors, one and all, have voiced their concerns and disappointment about this matter. We shall continue to do so until some transport provision is sorted out. Neither have we failed to speak out about the problems being encountered by mobility scooter users and parents with prams and buggies, in trying to make their way safely along Mill Lane.



Rumour is, of course, alive and well in Buckley. Two days before the bulldozers started tearing down the Potter’s Wheel, worried residents were speaking to me about stories they had heard, from reliable sources of course, that the Aldi Store was NOT coming to Buckley. Well, now that the proof of the pudding is in the demolishing of the Potter’s Wheel as it were, the rumour mongers have been proved wrong. If all goes to plan, there might well be a chance to do some Christmas shopping in the new store. Just for a little re-assurance, the informal footpath between the Aldi site and Padeswood Road North will remain open and the one-way road, from the library, past the empty Legion building onto what will be the Aldi car park, will also remain open, just as it is now.

There are still worries and uncertainties over the opening of the Aldi Store in Buckley. If that fresh presence and the residential growth of the town attracts more retailers and a greater range of goods on offer, all well and good. If, however, it draws footfall and custom away from the high street and the precinct, causing retail outlet closures, that will be detrimental for us all.



Connected to that, is the future fate of the Co-operative retail store. That organisation, having been granted planning permission to expand its Buckley store last April, has not expanded. Neither has it been able to sell itself off, which it was rumoured to be wishing to do. What it has done more lately is to offer up for auction the piece of land that was, last year, planned to be the car park for the expanded store. So, folks, it is another “Watch this space!” issue for residents to keep eyes and ears open over.


Some two years ago, Flintshire County Council asked Buckley Town Council for support in an effort to introduce a “Flintshire Connects” office into the old library building at the entrance to the Old Baths. The idea being to make services of the county council, plus the police force and others, more accessible to residents, without the need to travel to and from Shire Hall.
Basically a very good idea, which your town councillors fully supported. Cost of the enterprise was set at around £300k.


Preliminary groundwork was undertaken, negotiations with North Wales Police and other interested parties took place and matters appeared to be moving forwards. Sadly, the police force recently decided not to get involved. In February, those 7 of us who are both Town and County Councillors were called to a meeting on the subject at county hall. Clare Budden, chief officer for the project, advised us that due to an assortment of factors, the project was being put on hold, but, in an effort to get something by way of a “Flintshire Connects” office set up in Buckley, the county was now suggesting that a temporary connects office of limited nature should be introduced in to the existing Buckley Library. Likely cost around £50k.


We were assured that the major project was only on hold and that the £300k would be safeguarded so that the greater project could go ahead at a later date. On the basis that half a loaf is better than none, all of us agreed to support the new proposal, which Ms. Budden presented to Buckley Town Council the next evening in February. After some discussion, Buckley Town Council supported and accepted the new, temporary arrangement, which, we were assured, could be in place in two to three months. The promised safeguarding of the £300k for the original plan to come in at a later date loomed large in the debate.

Subsequently, by a letter dated 17th March, 2015, Ms. Budden confirmed that Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet had agreed to the creation of a “Flintshire Connects” office in the existing library. However, her letter indicated that the cost of the project, as yet not confirmed, would come out of the £300k earmarked for the original project and that the residue would NOT be set aside or earmarked for any further connects project in Buckley.

I doubt that Ms. Budden uttered weasel words. So, Buckley’s allocated money will now go elsewhere within the county, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of us county councillors who supported the “temporary” solution.



Several residents have asked me recently what is happening with the Old Buckley Baths Building. It was made very public a few years ago that the roofing structure to the Old Baths Building was one of only two such examples within the UK and the only one in Wales, thus worth preserving if at all possible. The recommended route to preserving it was to convert the building into a multi-functional community hall for Buckley. To cut a long story short, FCC, Buckley TC and CISWO (Coal Industries Social Welfare Organisation) got together on an agreement that each of the three bodies would gift their interest in the Old Baths land and buildings to a charitable trust to be set up to achieve that Community Hall aim and to raise the likely 1 – 2 £Million needed to see the project to completion.

The trust, which is not a part, or a sub-committee, of FCC or Buckley TC is now in existence. The trustees, courageous souls that they are, are Cllrs. Dennis Hutchinson, Carol Ellis, David Ellis and Richard Jones. After a recent conversation with Cllr. Richard Jones, I can report that the legal documents are nearing completion and that the existing trustees are looking to expand the trustee board membership and employ a qualified project manager to drive the work forward to completion, starting with finding the necessary funding, without which little or no progress can be made. I am certain that all Buckley residents wish them well with the project, because nobody wishes to see the building torn down and replaced with another block or two of flats. Buckley has already lost all too much trace of its industrial and residential past.



Buckley’s Annual Fun Day. This year it is on Sunday 17th May. We need the whole town to keep fingers crossed, please, that it is a fine day, because good weather is what we really need. The theme this year is “USA for The Day” which might just give you a clue about what to expect. There will be favourite characters, animals, a mechanical rodeo bull, lots of American cars, plenty of music for all tastes and lots of chairs and straw bales to park yourselves on while you listen, or munch on an ice-cream, a hot-dog or a burger of whatever size or flavour takes your fancy. Side-shows aplenty and all of your favourite charities too. So folks, mark the day on your calendar, cancel Sunday lunch and mosey along to the Precinct Prairie at about 12:00 noon for five hours of entertainment, amusement and relaxation, with no entrance fee.



To park or not to park, that is the question! No, not the green and grassy playing fields type, but the other one, the tarmac spaces for our beloved motor vehicles. County council wants to slap parking charges over most, if not all, car parking spaces in the county, on the expectation of gathering some £400k of additional income each year, to help plug the hole in the county’s finances. The original word was that there would be an even-handed application of cost, right across the county.


More lately, their thinking appears to be to charge for town centre parking areas, but to leave the more peripheral ones free of charge. Alongside of that, to make different charges per hour for different towns or areas. The arguments are still raging as to whether car parking charges will be the death-knell of what is left of Buckley’s high street and the generally limited retail offer. Whether the charge is 20P or 50P for a couple of hours and £1:00 for the day, is hardly the point. With free parking at Broughton and at stores in Queensferry and Mold, it is a bit of a gamble as to whether or not Buckley residents will desert the town’s shops and services, or not. Time alone will tell.

However, it is not only the car parking charges, which are unlikely to appear before August, that loom ahead. There is also the issue of where the cars that presently park in the spaces between the Potter’s Wheel and the Old Legion Building will park, once Aldi take over that area of car parking.

That particular car parking area contains 109 spaces. Quite often all of them are in use. It is not hard to envisage Precinct Way and Jubilee Road both becoming kerbside parking areas for the displaced vehicles. Hardly something to be looked forwards to!



In that matter of looking ahead, do give a thought to the now disused Precinct Way Medical Centre and the land adjacent to it. For just how long it will stay empty and boarded up, seems a bit of a mystery at present.
However, I have no doubt that some shrewd developer will have his or her eyes on the site, with thoughts of blocks of flats or houses in a prime position smack in the middle of town. Once again, it is a case of “watch this space!”


2. Flintshire Frolicks.

1) Flintshire’s Labour administration has a bit of a battle on its hands for the 2015-16 financial Year, in Revenue Income terms. Those in control must be rueing the days in past years when, although there was adequate funding then available for any prudent administrations, they indulged in long-term borrowing, year on year, to the tune of a total that is now £172Million, which requires long-term interest servicing, in the sum of £9Million each year, which has to come out of our Revenue Budget before any penny is spent on other needs.

With that £9Million disappearing each year and the further current shortage in revenue support grant from the WAG, of around £18Million, some drastic down-sizing is being indulged in. Over the past 12 months, apart from our senior officer numbers decreasing from 18 to 10, around 250 other members of staff have left, via routes that are other than compulsory redundancy. How that cutting in staff numbers will pan out in terms of service delivery across the board we shall all know only in the fullness of time.

2) County Councillors like me are supposed to take an interest in what goes on both in strategic and operational terms in the functioning of the county council. It is us councillors who employ the staff, not they who employ us. We are tasked to ensure that they do their jobs properly, provide best value for money for the public’s pounds and pennies and generally stick to the rules and regulations. Part of the arrangement is that of scrutinising and asking questions.


However, it appears that the organisation is somewhat question averse. I have been trying, since January of 2014, to obtain clear-cut answers to a number of questions concerning monetary matters, in relation to the strict or not so strict application of our Constitution and the financial regulations that operate alongside that. There is no question of anyone personally pocketing public money, but there is information I wish to have sight of, which is, presently, not being made available, despite the general view that I am entitled to the information. My promise to you, dear readers, is that I shall keep digging and pushing on every legitimately available door, until I can satisfy myself whether or not our constitution and financial regulations have been bent, buckled or broken.

3. Beyond Flintshire.

1) Not a lot of cheerful news to be recorded I am afraid. The latest Wales Government Minister for Local Government, Leighton Andrews, AM, has now published his White Paper setting out his visions for the shape of Local Government in Wales, after 2017. He wants fewer county councils and fewer county councillors. Roughly speaking, both down by about half. His present proposals include wedging Flintshire in with Wrexham. That idea does not seem popular with most of the people I have spoken with lately, whether in Flintshire or in Wrexham.

The problem is that the Wales Government Minister appears to be coming at this issue of re-organisation from purely a short-sighted cost perspective, along the lines of “If you cut the numbers, you cut the costs!” He seems to care nothing for service delivery, rising demand, an aging population or increased expectations. The latter driven by the incessant political and media hyperbole that bombards every one of us from all directions throughout all hours of day and night. He also seems to care nothing for the findings of “The Williams Commission” which reported to the WAG not long ago. That report set out very clearly that Value for Money in governance in Wales demands a Single Public Service approach. Rather than follow that sensible advice, the Minister appears to wish to diminish County Councillors, while at the same time increasing the number of AMs sitting in Cardiff. That is hardly pushing devolution downwards to where it should be, with decisions being made as local as possible to the communities they effect.

The Minister also seems not to have studied David Cameron’s ill-fated “Big Society” policy, which that gentleman introduced upon coming to power in 2010. Mr. Cameron’s bright idea was that all sorts of government and local government activities and services could and should be run, voluntarily, by members of our society, with minimal formal involvement of or interference from above.


I was one of 28 ordinary people who spent two days in Manchester at that time, listening to the theory and the outline of how it would all work. By the end of the two days, all 28 of us were convinced that the “Big Society” policy was totally unworkable. It handed down responsibility, but no authority and even less funding. At the conclusion of the training session we all simply walked away, a wee bit worried about the clear lack of understanding at Westminster level of how the real world of working families, the disabled, the aged and infirm functioned.

Now, here in Wales, Leighton Andrews appears to want much the same arrangement, with smaller community and parish councils being swallowed up by larger, neighbouring Town Councils. His White Paper appears to require certain services and functions, such as libraries, leisure centres and refuse collection, currently delivered by county councils, to be handed down to those expanded Town Councils, with them being run/supervised by committees made up of a few councillors, but with a majority of community volunteers. Like Mr. Cameron’s “Big Society,” I suspect this one is not going to take off either.

There is clearly a need to reduce the cost of delivering governmental services in Wales, at all levels, across all departments. However, the calls from our Minister for local government for us at county level to downsize and cut costs rings singularly hollow, because, over the past couple of years, the Wales Assembly Government has actually increased its employee numbers by nearly 500. Some economy measure! Also a stark reminder that there are some rules for some and other rules for others. I find myself wondering more and more whether the Assembly really is worth the £15.3Billion it received from Westminster this year.


3. Way Beyond Flintshire.

I am the first to recognise that, for the average household, failed refuse services, street lamps not working, dog dirt all over the place and some very nasty pot-holes in the road are all immediate and serious worries. What is going on far away usually does not worry us too much. Sadly, in this globalised day and age of electronic gadgets and instant communication, what is far away today can end up banging on our front door tomorrow, with some potentially serious consequences.

Growing rapidly, world-wide, is what has been dubbed as “The Plug-And-Play Workforce.” Within this system, the largest hotel chain in the world owns not one hotel. A “transportation company,” said to be worth about $40Billion, actually owns no vehicles. Similarly, a multi-national cleaning company purchases no cleaning supplies and employs not one single cleaner. If that sounds absurd, read on.


The three organisations, I hesitate to call them companies, have become “middle-men” in a new style of economic activity. Airbnb, Uber and Homejoy simply connect “customers” with “workers” using the latest electronic gadgetry of the mobile internet. For providing that service each takes a commission, earning multi-million $ incomes that put many more formally structured companies in the shade. For example, Uber operates a limousine-for-hire service in more than 200 cities across 23 countries. It has in excess of 162,000 “drivers” in the USA alone, putting it at about the same size, nominally, as the more formally structured Ford and Starbucks.

Such organisations, claiming to be pioneers of collective capitalism, are generating fierce support or opposition, depending upon personal viewpoints. They are either creating a sharing economy, or taking workers back to the bad old days of the late 1800s. Loved by entrepreneurs, hated by unions and seriously worried about by governments, who see tax revenues falling due to the informality of the novel new system, they are probably with us to stay.

4. Way Beyond Belief.

In the past 30 years or more, not one of the major political parties, despite many manifesto promises and being "in government" in turn, has :-

a) Raised educational standards in international terms.
b) Improved the technical skills set of our workforce.
c) Raised workforce productivity levels. (21% below G7 average!)
d) Balanced our national Budget.
e) Reduced our borrowings against GDP. (£0.76trln in 2010. Now £1.36trln)
f) Moved our international trading account for goods and services back into profit. (Since 1998 UK has bought in more than it sold out.)
f) Closed the tax loopholes that permit high-flying individuals and corporations to run rings around our Inland Revenue staff and legal teams.
g) Stopped land and housing prices galloping way ahead of wages.
h) Closed the ever-widening gap between rich and poor.
I) Provided us with a referendum on membership of the EU.
j) Controlled immigration numbers to manageable levels.
k) Delivered ‘Benefits’ to the truly needy, not the cleverly greedy.

Despite that, may I urge you all to please exercise your right to vote on May 7th, even if you simply end up voting for the party you dislike least.


Remember folks that I am here to keep you well informed and help you if you have problems. My phone is never off the hook and my email always there for
your use.


(01244) 549421 and arnooldwoolley@outlook.com


Back to top


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