1. Loyalty or Simply Good Manners?

With Labour and their acolytes currently running the county administration, it is not surprising that this year’s Chairman of the county council is Cllr. Paul Cunningham, a member of the Labour Party. He held his Civic Sunday Service in Flint, his electoral town, on the morning of Sunday 1st July, followed by the traditional light refreshments and some informal networking afterwards. As is our habit, my wife and I attended that event, which was well supported by the local community and invited dignitaries. From where we were sitting at the back of the congregation, it was notable that, aside from what many people refer to as “The Chain Gang” of invited Chairs and Mayors of local councils, the attendance of county councillors of all shades of political opinion, or none, was pretty poor.

 

There were in fact only 16 out of the total of 69 county councillors in attendance to support the new chairman in his Personal Declaration of Dedication for his year in office. Of those only 7 were members of the Labour Party, which numbers 34 when in full strength in the chamber.

 

Cllr. Paul Cunningham, his wife as Consort and the position of Chair of County Council, were all worthy of greater support from fellow county council members on that special occasion.

 

2. Talk About, “The Grand Old Duke Of York..!”

At the Welsh Local Government Association meeting at the end of June, in Llandudno, the latest incumbent as Cabinet Secretary for Local Government in Wales, Alun Davies, AM, finally came out and stated that the previously floated and apparently intended re-organisation of county councils, downwards from 22 to about 10 or 11, with “Regionalisation” at its heart, was, “….no longer on the table.” His announcement, made personally, informed the audience that he has withdrawn the controversial proposals outlined in his own Green Paper for local government reform, which would have seen compulsory county council mergers to reduce the number of those, being the 1st Tier of local authorities in Wales, to 10.


I am sure that readers will recall the “Collaboration Train” towards county council mergers, voluntary or otherwise, espoused by the late Carl Sargeant, AM, in 2012, followed by the “3 or 4 Regions” pattern which Leighton Andrews AM, wished to impose upon us and over which he lost his seat in 2016. His replacement, Dr. Mark Drakeford A.M., somewhat un-wisely followed in his predecessor’s footsteps and espoused the “…down to 10 or 11” proposals of Leighton Andrews. Dr. Drakeford did not last long in that WAG position, which is how we ended up, late in 2017, with Alun Davies A.M., as Cabinet Secretary for Local Government in Wales, with his unworkable, much opposed and now withdrawn set of proposals.


Despite the withdrawal of the Green Paper relating to county council reorganisation, there is still no certainty coming out of the Welsh Assembly Government about exactly what shape of the 2nd Tier of local government they intend to impose upon the nation as of 2022. Nobody from Cardiff appears to have stated, formally or informally, that the planned reduction of Parish, Community and Town Councils from 735 to 100 or 120 has been scrapped. The Independent Commission looking into that is, seemingly, still doing its work, with some indications that a decision statement will appear in the autumn.


In the meantime, councillors such as myself, at all levels, can only shake our heads in sadness, wonder and bewilderment at the indecision apparent within the WAG and try to get on to deliver, as best we may on reducing funding, efficient service and good value for money all around, on behalf of our various communities.


That endeavour on behalf of ordinary residents has not been helped along by the latest workforce information made public by FCC, which contains the worrying indication that the county council suffered a staff turnover rate of some 22% during the 2017-18 council year. The UK average employee turnover rate is approximately 15% a year, although this varies somewhat between industries. See also Item 7 below.

 

3. What About Buckley Then?

There are, as usual, several issues of interest to ward and town residents which are currently “pending” or “ongoing” as I start to put this newsletter together at the beginning of August. Since it can take up to a month between my starting to compile these newsletters and the day a copy arrives with you, kindly forgive me if any item appears as old news. Whatever, some of the current ones are:-

 

1) De-pedestrianisation of the presently pedestrianised part of the town centre.
On this one, your town councillors are still awaiting firm and detailed proposals from county council, which were asked for way back in September of last year. More lately, our local MP, Mark Tami, has come out on the side of de-pedestrianisation.
As I did assure readers in my last Newsletter and even the one in December of last year, if, as and when any firm and formal detailed proposal comes before town council, to de-pedestrianize the area, I shall call for a Local Referendum on the issue, so that the will of the town’s residents and the shopping public can be expressed and, hopefully, be taken notice of, one way or the other. One small point of improvement in that direction has been the fact that the bollard control system has, fingers crossed, seemingly been put right, so that the ups-and-downs of the pillars are at least as they need to be.


2) The Buckley Shopping Centre, alias The Precinct, as was.
Despite further requests from Andy White, our town manager, at behest of myself and other local councillors, the owners, Spurscow Estates, have decided to stand firm on their “No Public Seating” decision.
More lately, I have had to pass on complaints relating to unruly skateboarding and cycle riding within the Shopping Centre. Until and unless there is some uniformed security presence there, which is hardly likely to happen, those of us who do, for various reasons, wish to shop within the building, will have to simply put up with the lack of seating and the uncontrolled skateboarders and cyclists. Regrettably, not an attractive or encouraging outlook.


On a more positive note, the genuine potter’s wheel which formed part of the recent Wrexham Museum’s One Hundred Items of North Wales History has been permitted a temporary home in the currently empty Shopping Centre unit which once contained NatWest Bank. It is well worth a look-see.


More recently, it has become public knowledge that The Buckley Shopping Centre is up for sale. The present owners, Spurscow Estates, are apparently asking £3million for the property. At this early stage in the process, I have no idea which interested party, if any, might eventually wish to step in to take it on. However, an errant thought strayed into my mind during a recent serious conversation on that very topic, which suggested that with an electoral roll of some 2650 voters in Bistre East Ward, within which the Buckley Shopping Centre is sstuated, if we all chipped in with £1,132, we could buy it ourselves. That was followed by the thought that if all of Buckley’s voting population, around 10,000, were to take an interest and a share, the figure drops to about £300. That was followed by a memory of one of Roy Orbison’s better-known songs of many years back, which was titled, “In Dreams.” That brought me back to reality!

 

3) The Old Buckley Baths Building.

On this one, I am aware that the Directors of the entity established some four years or so ago, to see to completion the conversion of the building into a multi-purpose community hall, are not finding it quick or easy to obtain, from the Charities Commission, the granting of formal registration as a charitable activity. I am advised that much correspondence is flowing and some small progress has been made. However, until that essential charitable status is obtained, little visible progress is likely. This is another one where all that we who are not directly involved can do is to wish the directors good luck with the project.
4) The 14 Houses in the area bounded by the Fire Station, Manor Drive, Jubilee Road and the Home Bargains Store.


Edwards Homes are getting on with the construction of the 14 buildings, as per planning permission granted last year. Many have commented on the apparent narrowness of the entrance/exit, on to Jubilee Road. I have checked that with the appropriate FCC officers at Planning and Highways and had a personal measuring-up conversation with the site supervisor. The access road as set out in the planning application and approved by highways officers, was 4.5 metres in width. What is starting to emerge now, we measured as 4.6 metres, which is over what is required. The real test will be when the project is fully completed and all of the houses are occupied. There will either be sufficient parking space within the complex for resident car owners/drivers, or we shall see uncontrolled parking going on upon both sides of Jubilee Road, which will be uncomfortable for everyone at best and most likely highly dangerous too.


5) Grwp Cnefyn and the 24 Maisonettes by the Library.
Whoopee! The intended maisonettes are now starting to make their above-ground appearance, where once the Precinct Medical Centre building stood. As a result, we have been able to see the back of the anti-social activities which had been on-going throughout the last winter’s months.


Full marks also to the company for creating windows in the hoardings at levels which allow both adults and small-fry to peek through to see what might be going on in terms of progress towards completion. From what inquiries are coming at me already, I sense that once they are completed, there will be little or no delay in filling them.

 

6) The 2018 Buckley Fun Day.
Well, once again, the weather was fine on Sunday 20th May, all ready for the opening of this year’s Fun Day, by this year’s town mayor, Cllr. David Ellis. Those thousands of local folks and some from afar too, who visited for just an hour or two, or remained throughout the whole half-dozen hours of it, were entertained, intrigued, amazed, amused and bewildered by a broad spectrum of wares, side-shows, main arena performances and of course, the musical offerings on stage. From dare-devil activities of nerveless young men on the Vanda Wheels, to performing Llamas, to an impressive array of sparkling American Cars, there was something for everyone, of whatever age. Not only that, but there was ample in the way of goodies to eat and drink too, or to cart away for later consumption. The day can only be described as a successful one. Behind the scenes, over many months, a great deal of hard work went in to making the day the success it turned out to be. The community owes a “Thank You” to the councillors, council staff and others too numerous to mention here, who beavered away for months, to make the day a special one – and breathed a sigh of relief when it turned out to be successful!

 

4. Here We Go Again (1)!

In my previous newsletter, I did mention that SKYE Homes had publicly advised their intention to shortly submit a detailed planning application to county council for the construction of a mixed-use housing project behind the existing houses South of Spon Green Road. The application site runs the length of much of the open countryside downwards on Bannel Lane to the bridge. The intended application proposed 435 housing units, plus a sizeable retail store location, with parking and some open space. 3 proposed vehicular accesses onto existing roads were shown as being where MJ Garage once was on Spon Green; off Grassy Lane and a main access junction well below where the present access exists to the “Spitalfields” buildings off Bannel Lane.


Being at least as good as their stated word, the formal, detailed planning application was submitted to Planning Department at County Hall some few months ago. The land targeted is part of the Green Barrier running from Bannel Lane across to Padeswood Road South and is currently not within the proposed development zone for Buckley. Local residents, from within the ward and further around the town, who spoke to me about this latest application were almost unanimous in wishing to oppose it. I was and still am, of course working closely with the residents’ committee set up last February, for the sole purpose of combining our opposition to this application. Like the Leith Developments application (See below) this has to be recognised as being
provoked by the present lack of any existing Local Development Plan for the county, including our town, allied to the known, current but not necessarily long-term, absence of a fully planned 5-year housing supply for the county. Again, like the Leith Development proposal below, this application goes against Planning Policy Wales, even before we begin to bombard it with technical and local issues or matters of sustainability. It provoked something in the order of 190 written objections from residents and only 3 in support.


A Resident’s Committee was set up, to formally oppose the application, chaired by John Woolley, who in that position claimed his right to speak for 3 minutes to oppose the application when it came before Planning Committee at county council, which it did on Wednesday 18th July. As ward councillor, working closely with that committee, I was also permitted to speak, for 5 minutes.
Fortunately, the planning officers recommended refusal. John and I spoke for our allotted times and, despite a plea by the applicant’s representative for a deferment, planning committee members voted on 18th July 2018, for refusal of the application.
Interested ward residents please take note that there is every expectation that the applicants will lodge an appeal at WAG level, so, for the while, just watch this space as it were, for, in truth, we locals have won a battle, but not yet won the war.

 

5. Here We Go Again (2)!

Leith Developments’ outline planning application for 100 plus houses on the Green Barrier land below Meg’s Lane, like the item above, was also a subject of comment in my last newsletter. As I said in my previous newsletter, the application breaches various Wales planning policies, which permitted all of us to be very hopeful that it, as well as the SKYE Homes application, would be refused on its presentation before FCC’s Planning Committee.. On this one also, I worked closely with Mike Lewis and the residents’ committee dedicated to opposing this application.


This application appeared on the agenda for the planning committee at county council on 18th July, immediately after the Spon Green application. As with the Spon Green item, as local ward member, I was able make a 5-minute presentation opposing this application. Mike Lewis, as chairman of the committee of residents opposed to this application spoke for his allotted 3 minutes.

 

I also needed to ensure that my presentations on this item and on the Spon Green one, were not identical, but directly addressed each application individually. That is because we did believe we had a good chance of both being refused at planning committee on 18th July. However, I felt certain that both applicants will promptly head off along the Appeals route to the Welsh Assembly Government. If I had made the mistake of dealing with both applications as identical, the applicants would certainly use that to claim that I had failed to address each “on its own merits” as I needed to do to be procedurally correct

.
Fortunately for local residents, both applications breach an assortment of Planning and other Legislative items from Wales and from the EU and run contrary to the now out of date Unitary Development Plan, approved in 2011, which is still extant, until the county produces a Local Development Plan to replace it. Like the Spon Green item, when it appeared at county council’s planning committee on 18th July, planning officers recommended refusal. Mike Lewis and I used our time allowances to provide sound reasons for refusal from the local viewpoint and that, happily, was the eventual decision made by the planning committee.
Unfortunately, as with the Spon Green item above, the applicant can go on appeal with the application and is quite likely to do just that. So, as with the Spon Green application, local residents won the battle on 18th July 2018, but sadly that battle may not have ended the war!

 

6. What The Young Face for Their Future?

Nature will sort it out, but not too quickly I hope, that I, as an Older Person, will not be around to worry about whatever the younger generation(s) behind me will face in the 2040s and onwards. That does not stop me looking on in wonderment at some of the decisions that the present band of global politicians and economists have recently made; the effects of which will impact adversely during the lifetimes of the now young. Apart from Donald Trump and his “Scrap the Paris Accord on Climate Change” lunacy; which lunacy even some of his own States in the USA are wisely ignoring, there are two more issues, aside from the Plastics Problem, which past manufacturers and coinsumers have caused and the young will need to address. Both relate to the worrying issue of “Air Quality.”


When I was a teenager, way back in the 1950s, we endured “Smogs” throughout many winters until steps were taken to prevent them. Alongside of the smogs there were, even then, discussions and concerns over raised cancer rates along arterial roads, ascribed to the ill-effects of diesel engines in heavy vehicles. Slowly, but eventually vehicle emission controls appeared and rightly so. However, the percentage level of decrease of emissions has been overtaken by vast increase in numbers of vehicles on the roads, related to a growing population and the demise of public transport. As a factual detail, the past 5 years has seen a 20% increase in vehicles, with only a 0.3% increase in road surface area. However, we are advised not to worry, because the decision-making geniuses have come up with the fact that “Electric Vehicles” will solve the problem as they do not pump heavy metal particulates and noxious gasses into the atmosphere.


Unfortunately for those short-sighted nitwits, there is a growing weight of scientific evidence which clearly establishes that the lifetime burden on the environment of an electric car is worse than fossil-fuelled vehicles because of their need for electricity and the use of Lithium Batteries, the safe disposal of which creates serious problems. That is because Lithium metal heats up when exposed to water and can easily catch fire. From records available, it is stated that Lithium-ion batteries were implicated in a plane crash in Dubai in 2010. Consignments of these batteries are now banned from UK and US aircraft, although individual passengers are still allowed to take their laptops on board.


There are many warnings to those who are responsible for workplace health and safety that they should be aware that batteries containing metallic lithium become hazardous when the outer casing becomes damaged and the contents exposed. If improperly disposed to landfill, the batteries can catch fire below the surface of the landfill. There is ample evidence that landfill fires can burn for a long period and are very difficult to extinguish. However, even in present times, with limited use of them, most consumer batteries of all kinds still end up in landfill, which, presently seems to be the safest method of disposal, because it is not regarded as a serious risk to the environment. Certainly, Lithium batteries should never be incinerated due to the risk of explosion.
Lithium batteries are ideal for many purposes, from wristwatches to lap-tops, to vehicles and beyond. However, because they can provide extremely high currents and can discharge very rapidly when short-circuited, they need careful handling and disposal. A too-rapid discharge of a lithium battery can result in overheating of the battery, rupture, and even explosion.

 

With recycled Lithium being as much as five times more expensive than mined Lithium and using six times as much electricity as mining the original ore, there is no present economic drive for recycling of the item. Looking ahead though, an EU study predicted that reserves could be exhausted by 2050 if there is high market penetration of electric vehicles. Over 40% of the world's known lithium reserves lie in Bolivia and Chile, but Bolivia has not yet allowed overseas companies to mine the salt flats in which the deposits are found. Given global population growth and total switching to electric-powered vehicles, it is difficult to see how better-quality air will result from electric-powered vehicles.


There is another concern, for those who care to look ahead. That is the not un-natural and probably inevitable, demand of the now young to be able to get around the world quicker. Global Politicians, Aircraft Manufacturers and Economists are all planning for double the volume of air traffic by 2050.


That may be great for trade, leisure, tourism, profits, shares and tax, but, jet engines are notoriously damaging in terms of air quality. Aircraft emissions do vary with the engine type, the engine load and the fuel. Among jet aircrafts there are differences between civil and military jet engines and their fuels. However, any combustion of jet fuel results in CO2, H2O, CO, C, NOx, heavy-metal particulates and a great number of organic compounds being emitted to air. Science tells us that what comes out of the back end of a jet engine overhead does not stay up there forever. Between potential dimming effect on sunlight and potential air quality problems at ground level, it should not be just those who are living close to expanding airports who should be asking questions and demanding answers.

 

7. Good Going Concerns?

The UK Civil Service, in all of its assorted aspects and at all of its multiple levels, has, during my lifetime, always been an attractive employer. Generous holidays, lengthy sick-pay periods, pension rights and, very important for many, long-term in nature with increments and promotions there for those who wished to be ambitious and compete. Sadly, at least as far as Local Government is concerned, that coziness vanished with the onset of “Austerity.”


I can only speak from experience here in Flintshire, where us councillors have had to work around some £60Million of cash funding cut-backs, with several hundred staff having to be made redundant or asked to take voluntary early retirement. Promotion chances are diminished, work-loads have increased and the working environment has become less amiable. Many workplace conversations have centred around which department, service, or personnel will be the next to go. On top of that, there has been the continual “on-off” threat, here in Wales at least, of Local Government Re-organisation.


Over on the English side of Local Government, the cuts have been harsher. It is no wonder therefore that a recent survey by the union UNISON, has revealed that half of all local council employees are thinking of leaving their jobs to seek less stressful and more secure employment. According to the report, published early in July 2018, 53% stated that their workload is unmanageable. 79% of employees declared that they had no confidence in the future of local services due to spending cuts, while 53% recorded that they felt their council no longer delivers quality services. 48% alleged that their local authority fails to make the right decisions for their public.


Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis, said “Local services are collapsing and council workers are being left to pick up the pieces as best they can amid the chaos. This disturbing survey should ring alarm bells in Whitehall and also alert Ministers to the crisis happening in councils up and down the country.”


It seems that the Unison report concentrated on the English side of the border, however, with that in the background, is it any wonder therefor that one of the statistics in the latest Flintshire County Council Workforce Information Report, placed before me in my committee work, declared that 22% of the county’s work force turned over in the 2017-18 working year? That is a worryingly high figure. One of the few opinions common to all Flintshire county councillors is that the most valuable asset we have in the administration is the workforce. As I did mention in item 2 above, when that valuable asset is fast vanishing, along with its skills and experience, it is not only Whitehall which needs to wake up, but perhaps Cardiff too.

 

8. Hopefully, No Place to Hide!

One of the global issues which, when folks everywhere set their mind to it, is the ever-growing gap between the mega-wealthy and the genuinely poverty-stricken. Another is the global lack of revenue within many well-ordered nations, with which to build infrastructure and support services. Between Organised Crime, which is often, in the case of IT Scams, as global as legitimate businesses, International Tax Havens, Corporate Craftiness, Creative Accountancy and Money Laundering, there are anecdotally hundreds of billions of £s, $s and such hidden away, far from the reach of Tax Officials, globally.


Finally, after years of knowing about the problem, Tax Enforcement bodies from five nations, UK, Canada, Netherlands, USA and Australia, have launched the “Joint Chiefs of Staff Global Tax Enforcement Agency (J5),” which will be used as a platform to share intelligence and expertise in order to crack down on tax evasion crime, for crime it is.


This action follows on from the call by the OECD, last year, for stronger action to tackle global tax evasion and money laundering. Margaret Hodge, MP, Chair of the UK All-Parliamentary Party Group on Responsible Taxation welcomed the initiative with the comment that, “Any co-operation between countries to tackle tax crime and end the flow of dirty money around the world is a good thing!” Simon York, HMRC’s Director of Fraud Investigation Services commented, “Tax crimes and money laundering are becoming increasingly global and sophisticated, so it is crucial we work with international partners to tackle these threats. By working together, we are broadening the horizons of tax crime enforcement, making the world smaller for those who seek to exploit our systems and ensuring no one is beyond our reach.” He pointed out that since 2010, HMRC has secured more than £2.8bn from off-shore tax evaders.

 

9. The End of Business Rates?

I did mention, in a previous newsletter, that the USA had, over the last decade, lost some 480,000 retail jobs and seen the closure of many large Shopping Malls. Here in Buckley we are seeing a greater and greater presence of delivery trucks badged to national retailers who are, of necessity, needing to cater for the growing demand for “on-line” shopping for everything from Bath Cubes to Bisdcuits. The on-line shopping spree enables the Amazons and large Multi-nationals to function in a “Bigger, therefor Faster and Cheaper” style. Back that with a self-employed driver network doing the delivering, aimed all too frequently at 40, 50 or more “drops” in the working day and the result is the kind of “keen” pricing which our traditional High Street and Corner Shops simply cannot compete with as they are literally buried under Business Rate and rent demands which take no account of footfall or profit and loss situations.

 

Belatedly, but at last, we are beginning to hear the voices of influential people calling for some pragmatic change. During July, two serious reports appeared. The Centre for Cities, a UK think-tank researching the demise of the high-street, has called for city centres to be re-imagined. A few days after their statement, Bill Grimsey, former Wickes and Iceland boss, published a follow-up report to his 2013 report on the even-then noticeable decline in high streets and town centres. In this latest report he has called for Business Rates to be scrapped and replaced - preferably with a form of Sales Tax. He described the current system as a “monolithic giant that needs to be strangled.” Speaking to the Management Journal, he commented, “We are reaching a tipping-point for the high street; driven by technology and lifestyle.We have to create an economic blueprint, done locally through something like a town centre commission, driven by local authorities and not by Westminster.” His vision proposed re-purposing town centres as “community hubs” rather than concentrating on traditional bricks and mortar retail.


Nobody from Treasury appears to have commented yet on either report!

 

10. Murdoch Will Not Like it!

It has been going on for so long that most people have become bored with the topic and become fed up waiting for Government to make a decision. What am I talking about? Simply Rupert Murdoch’s long-running bid to take over Sky News in the UK in order to give himself almost total control of the UK’s political broadcasting media.


For those of you who missed the somewhat quiet announcement of Government’s final decision in the middle of July, that decision was to refuse approval of the takeover bid. That means Murdoch won't be able to add Sky News UK to his already vast global news empire and won't be able to use it to interfere with our democracy. Murdoch has been using his army of professional lobbyists to try to get full control of Sky News since his initial bid in 2010, when hundreds of thousands of UK residents, many of them motivated and encouraged by the campaign which was orchestrated by the 38 Degrees organisation, got together for the common purpose of blocking that bid, which action was successful. It was clear then that Murdoch would let the dust settle and come back again, which he did in 2016.

 

By that time, 38 Degrees were ready for him to show his hand. Supported by members/activists such as myself, throughout the UK, a nation-wide petition resulted in 328,000 signatures from members of the public arriving on the desk of the Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, calling upon her not to simply wave the deal through, but to investigate it thoroughly. That was backed by 71,165 of us who sent in our own personal responses to the subsequent investigation, mainly stating that Murdoch could not be trusted with more control over the national media.


In June of 2017, Karen Bradley announced an even bigger investigation into the proposed takeover deal. Altogether, the public sent 65,238 emails to the CMA, the watchdog tasked with the second investigation.
In addition, 113,622 of us signed an open letter calling on the new Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to listen to the watchdog and block Murdoch’s bid. That nation-wide protest forced the government to accept that the Sky News takeover would give Murdoch an unhealthy degree of influence over "public opinion and the UK's political agenda".


Despite that victory for people and for common sense and although the government has blocked Murdoch from taking over Sky News, they've given him the go-ahead to continue to negotiate to buy the rest of the Sky entertainment business. However, where, back in 2010, Murdoch was the sole bidder for the whole Sky empire, there are now other global companies in the running who are jostling to buy not only Sky, but even Murdoch's own company, Fox. What’s going to happen next? Who knows! Disney might buy Murdoch's entire company - including Sky. Or another company called Comcast might buy Sky instead.

 

11. Ditch The Loan Sharks!

I was recently asked for some advice by a ward resident who had got into the hands of some loan sharks and gone down the pay-day lender route, only find that that is no real escape. Those of you who really do read my newsletters will know that I detest debt, because of the damage it does, the lives it ruins and even shortens, the children it deprives and the families it busts up. In this particular case I was able to steer the individual and the family towards using the services of a Government Agency, called Debt Resistance UK. You can find them under that title by using any major web browser. That organisation commonly uses the process entitled an “Individual Voluntary Arrangement” or IVA, as the route, over a period of 5 years, to achieving clearance of life and soul-destroying debt.


IVA's were first introduced as a solution to problem debt in 1986. They are now the most popular formal solution to the clearance of debt. They are designed to make repayments more manageable and affordable. These schemes must be set up by a registered Insolvency Practitioner (IP). That person will negotiate with you what is an affordable level of debt re-payment for you each month, according to your incomings. The affordable amount will be split into payments between your creditors. These are legally binding agreements in which you pay back all or part of your debts. The arrangement is put together so as to prevent any additional interest and charges being added to your existing debt (creditors can't change their mind!) These will normally last 60 months during which period you will be required to make one affordable payment each month towards your debt. At the end of 5 years any debt that remains may be legally written off. In going down this route and using the readily available services of “Debt Resistance UK,” you will find that there are no “Set Up” or “Arrangement” fees involved!


The final plus point for the website is that you do NOT have to have a computer to make contact and go through the self-help assessment. You can speak with an advisor by phoning 0808 223 4188. If you are losing personal or family disposable income, month by month, through “interest charges” without seeing any shrinking of the capital debt figure, pick up the phone and make the call – and the sooner the better!

 

12. Bad Boy Barclays?

Recent press and financial magazines have carried a report by Dominic Brady concerning the fact that a cluster of a dozen or more county and city councils in England have instigated legal proceedings against Barclays Bank over controversial LOBO loans. For those unfamiliar with the term LOBO, it means “lender-option, borrower-option.” LOBO loans can often offer interest rates below that of central government’s Public Works Loan Board but they allow lenders to change rates at set times in the future.
A claim form submitted by the councils involved accuses Barclays of “deceit and/or fraudulent misrepresentation” as its bankers were secretly rigging Libor, which, in simple terms, is the basis of the rate at which LOBO loans had to be paid back. It is the interest rate at which banks offer to lend funds to one another in the international interbank market. In 2016, three former Barclays traders were convicted of conspiring to fraudulently manipulate the global benchmark rate.


The councils in question said that the loans, taken out between 2004 and 2010 should be rescinded with fees returned. They also want compensation for damages. On reading that piece of information, I did make sure that FCC did not have any loans with Barclays over the period under scrutiny.

 

13. Good Work in Buckley.

In pages 3 to 5 of this newsletter I did dwell a little on some pending and ongoing issues in our town. However, I am glad to say that much does get done, dusted and completed in our town, often without any fanfare. One such activity is the Annual Fundraising event, organised by the Buckley Senior Citizens’ Association on the morning of the first Friday in August. To all who bake, knit and provide assorted prizes, many thanks from the committee. Aside from tea, coffee, biscuits and the welcome opportunity to meet, greet and speak with friends, there are always several stalls to attract the attention of members and visitors. The many dozens, mostly Senior Citizens, who are kind enough to attend in support of the event, have raffle ticket chances to win a sizable cake, a bottle of whiskey or to choose from dozens of other donated items ranging from jewellery to jumpers and pictures to pottery. All of which are designed to encourage a wee bit of personal spending, to support worthwhile local and sometimes national organisations. This year’s event, on 3rd August, raised over £920, which the Association topped up to an even £1,000:00, which was then and there split in half and donated to representatives of the Little Theatre at Hawksbury and the Buckley Boxing Club, based in the Drury Industrial Estate.


The little theatre’s members are in the process of replacing all of the 120 or so seats in the auditorium, which is no mean task in terms of cost and sheer hard work. In accepting their £500:00 cheque, Peter Watkin, who lives in our ward, offered sincere thanks for the welcome support. He apologised for the fact that the usual September production will not take place due to the refurbishment, but assured us that the December production of, as he put it for political correctness, “Snow White and the 7 small persons,” will be put on. Mark Field, the Head Coach of the boxing club, who has organised and run it for some years, is a past boxer, turned nurse. Recently, Mark, who works at the St George Healthcare Group in Chester, was awarded the RCNi 'Special Recognition' award for his outstanding work in running Buckley Boxing Club, which aims to help children and young people with mental health disorders. Well done to him and all who assist him.

 

14 Newts Galore!

On the “Barmy or What?” front, Central Bedfordshire Council have just appointed the UK’s first ever “Newt Officer.”
The newly appointed officer will work alongside the council and six other nearby local authorities to ensure that they all meet their legal obligations to protect and conserve Great Crested Newts. Councillor Nigel Young, their Executive Member for Regeneration, offered the following Press Statement. “The council takes its responsibilities to conservation very seriously. Great crested newts are protected under both UK and EU legislation. Surveys have shown that there is a healthy population of newts here in Central Bedfordshire, so it is great that we have the first ever newt officer to help developers and builders meet their legal obligations to this important species of wildlife.”

 

Not surprisingly, Central Bedfordshire’s tax-paying public have had quite a lot to say about the appointment. Hardly any of it complimentary! We too have a healthy population of this rather cute but shy little amphibian here in Flintshire and the species is listed under the provisions of Section 7 of the Environment Act Wales 2016. Let us hope that in this county we can continue to adequately protect our Great Crested Newts without lumbering our tax payers with the employment costs of such a dedicated and formal position.



If you have problems and need a word of advice or support, now or in the weeks ahead, remember please that I am always at your service and available, 24 hours of the day and seven days of the week, via my home phone number of 01244 549421, which does carry an answerphone facility in case I am out and about, which I often am. 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.


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