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. General

One of the enduring concerns of ordinary citizens, over the years, has been getting an answer to the very valid question of just how can any Minister of any government, of whatever shade of political party, be an expert in education one day and then an expert in defence matters the next?

Sudden changes of that kind, which frequently happen, both at Westminster and down in Cardiff, beggar belief and diminish the overall credibility of all political governments in general, in the eyes of mere mortals such as you and me.
That kind of antic has helped to embed and sustain the belief that many of us have that it is not Government Ministers who really run the national show, but “The Mandarins” of the Civil Service, who stay in post regardless of any voters’ choices. That and the evident fact that it is total loyalty rather than competence that attracts patronage and progress up the ranks within political parties. Challenges and questions from within appear to be frowned upon.

There is little doubt that in recent decades the old, clear divisions between the three main parties have become blurred. There has been an acknowledged “shift towards the centre” as it were. So much so that voters, as they often tell me, are genuinely confused over just what policy might or might not come out of which party once they get voted into power.

In the middle of this year one of our national tabloids ran a story headlined “Is Sir Cover-up more powerful than the PM?” The civil servant who was the apparent target was Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, who, is this nation’s most senior civil servant. He was in the spotlight a short while back as being responsible for preventing the Iraq War Inquiry from seeing certain letters and records of phone calls between Tony Blair and George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War. Speaking at an event organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research, Mr. Dominic Cummings, who was Michael Gove’s key aide when that gentleman was Education Secretary, is reported as having said that Sir Jeremy has David Cameron by the short and curlies and that the PM does nothing without Heywood’s permission.


Mr. Cummings did have quite a lot to say about supposed chaos and short-term planning only, within No. 10. However, regardless as to whether those allegations are correct or not, it is interesting for us to note that Sir Jeremy was Tony Blaire’s Principal Private Secretary from 1999 to 2003.

Thus we are asked to accept the picture of total loyalty to one political philosophy, followed closely by total loyalty to another.
Is it believable that senior civil servants are such paragons of virtue that they can and will function with total political neutrality, without permitting personal prejudices, likes, dislikes and perhaps interests to influence them, not even one teeny, weeny bit?
Could it even be television’s “Yes, Minister” come true?
I leave you, dear reader, to decide that for yourself.


2. Wales’ National Money Matters

A growing number of people have been asking me lately just how much does the Wales Government receive, annually, from Westminster, what the heck do they do with it and by how much has it been cut?

Those questions are totally understandable in view of the “Austerity Programme” foisted on to local authorities over the past couple of years, by the Wales Government down there in Cardiff. Up here in Flintshire, for the coming year of 20115-16, we have a reduction on last year of 3.4%. Quite naturally, we ordinary residents would believe that the Wales Government had had some similar cut in its own funding, which is provided by Westminster. As usual, we would be wrong! According to the best information I have been able to obtain, Westminster has in recent years provided an annual budget provision for the Wales Government as follow:-
2013-14 £14.9Billion
2014-15 £15.3Billion
2015-16 £15.3Billion (Indicated)

Local Authorities appear destined to receive only £4.9Billion, leaving quite a lot to go elsewhere, into Health, Roads and Transport and those other projects and responsibilities that the Wales Government funds directly.
Given those figures, there has to be some justification for asking, just what is our Wales Government up to in cutting funding to Local Authorities by amounts such that every non-statutory service presently being offered by local authorities is now likely to be terminated; overall education funding is to be cut back and unlimited class sizes could become the order of future days?
It would seem that our present Wales Government is of the belief that Devolution stops at Cardiff. That is far from my view, which is that in any true democracy, localism, tempered by best value for money, must be paramount.

In the latest Welsh Local Government Association newsletter, for November, 2014, the Leader, Cllr. Bob Wellington, CBE, set out that:-
“Local government is no stranger to austerity. Since 2009-10, real terms budgets for economic development are down by an average of 34%, regulatory services by 30%, culture, sport and leisure by 27% and libraries by 19%. From the onset of the recession councils have shouldered a disproportionate share of the burden and have arrived at a point where services face being scaled back in a way that no-one wishes to see.”

The bar-chart he used displays the following funding reductions over recent years:-

FIRE -18%


Cllr. Wellington, in continuing the article, says:- “The further £220million set to be slashed from council budgets next year will place local government finance firmly in reverse gear, and return core funding to the same levels available during the early years of devolution.

In the meantime, there has been significant population growth. People are living longer. Community needs are more complex, public demand is at an all-time high, and councils have been left to manage these issues with the same level of financial resource they had over a decade ago.

Politicians, at all levels, need to be open about what this means for the communities they serve. Austerity is set to last well into the next Parliament and we urgently need our national politicians to show leadership, to support the difficult decisions being made locally and to start setting clear, realistic priorities that can stand the test of the current economic climate.
In 2015, councils will once again find their budgets reduced as an
ever increasing amount of Wales’ public funding is diverted to meet the costs of the NHS. While support for our health service is understandable, the approach is an unsustainable one.”
What I have set out here is only part of his full article, which is well worth reading. It can be accessed by visiting the WLGA website.

3. Let’s Think Local

1) That Aldi Store.

Perhaps for lack of newspaper coverage, most of Buckley’s residents appear not to have known that Buckley’s Town Councillors, of which I am one, voted unanimously FOR the proposed Aldi store on the site of the present Potter’s Wheel public house, at our meeting at the end of October. Not only did we vote for it, as responsible and responsive custodians of your opinions and wishes should have done, but we sent a strong recommendation upwards to county level that their planning committee should approve it too. Our local view was supported by the county’s planning officers, who recommended approval of Aldi’s Buckley application. With all of that support, somewhat unsurprisingly, Aldi’s bid for a store in Buckley was successful.
To the five dozen or more Buckley residents who got in touch with me by email, letters or phone calls about the Aldi store in Buckley, well done for taking the time and trouble to do so. That you were knocking on an open door took nothing away from your efforts.

Unfortunately, Aldi chose to also throw on to the table at county level, on the same day, their somewhat controversial plan for another Aldi store, on land designated for housing, in Broughton. The county’s planning officers opposed it, on grounds that to grant the change of use on that land would be a significant departure from our county’s set development plans.
Notwithstanding the recommendation for refusal by the officers, the county council’s planning committee members, voted 15 to 6 to approve that Broughton application, causing now some delay and uncertainty while that item progresses through the routines that kick into effect when this kind of issue arises. A final decision may not be made about that Broughton application
for some weeks or months.

Hopefully, the Broughton argument, whichever way it goes should not prevent Aldi getting on promptly with the Buckley development. The only downsides being the loss of the unrestricted car parking area between the Potter’s Wheel and the sadly derelict Royal British Legion club building and the closure of the one way road alongside the Padeswood medical centre.

2) Guy Fawkes’ Night Fireworks.

A huge thank you to everyone who turned out to watch the fireworks display on 5th November. You were part of the largest crowd ever seen to attend over the many years of the event. Thankfully the weather was kind and the fireworks themselves were awesome, particularly that finale. Mind you, a couple of local householders did ask if we were using landmines instead of fireworks. That raises the fact that such is the power of the fireworks nowadays that those who set them off do so by electronic means, from computer-type consoles. They even need training courses and have to have licences that are graded according to the power of the fireworks they intend to set off. The good old days of matches and a taper are long, long gone.

Finally, another huge thank you to all who did attend, for your generosity with the donations into the buckets that we councillors and friends were carrying during the event. You helped raise a little over £1,500:00 for the Mayor’s two chosen charities, the Royal Buckley Band and Help the Heroes.


3) Dog Dirt.

Despite local legislation, the introduction of wardens on the streets and the provision of over 300 dog dirt bins around the county, the matter of the continuing fouling of pavements, footpaths and even play areas, by unthinking dog walkers/owners is still the number one grouse that I get. It seems that some residents simply do not care enough about their neighbours, their locality or community to even bother to think of the hygiene and health issues that go with allowing their dogs to defecate in public places without bagging the droppings and binning the bags.

To those several concerned residents within the ward who have kindly given me the particulars of regular offenders in this matter, you can rest assured that those names and addresses have been forwarded, for the attention of the officers at county hall. If any of those guilty parties get stung with a fine, all I can say is that they have brought it down upon themselves.

4) Flintshire Connects.

The effort to bring a “One Stop Shop” of county council and other public services into Buckley, positioned within what used to be the original library area of the town council building, is still continuing. Along with the Town Centre’s Public Realm Improvements,
we hope to see visible signs of progress in the New Year. One thing you can be sure of is that all of your local councillors are working hard, along with the county council officers, in order to get these projects up, running and completed, just as soon as can be done.


4. That Deeside Incinerator

In the article on page 5 of Flintshire Leader newspaper dated 17th October, 2014, relating to the looming Deeside Co-Incinerator, or EfW Plant, both Cllr Aaron Shotton, the Labour leader of Flintshire County Council and the local Labour MP, Mark Tami, were, once again, at pains to blame the "previous administration" for the appearance of the plant, claiming, falsely, that it was the administration that I had the privilege of leading, between 2008 and 2012, that signed off the deal under circumstances that allowed no get-out.

That line is, for both of them, convenient political rhetoric, but it is far from reality. In fact and in essence, it is the fault of Labour Party Policy, in both Westminster and Cardiff locations, which has promoted "Energy from Waste" wholeheartedly since the late 1990s and caused the proliferation of co-incinerating EfW and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plants, throughout the UK ever since then. In the Deeside case, the true facts are that as far back as 2006 the then Labour controlled administration, under guidance/pressure from the Labour controlled Wales Government agreed to engage in an "informal" consultation process, involving all counties in North Wales, for the purpose of solving the foreseeable municipal residual waste disposal problem. All very laudable and necessary. Elected representatives from the engaging counties at that time included Flintshire's Kevin Jones and Bernie Attridge, both currently cabinet members, who attended assorted meetings as they continued. That was in keeping with the Labour administration's 2007 paper, "Flintshire County Council's Municipal Waste Management Strategy, Version 2" in which Energy from Waste technologies are advocated and which contains the phrase,


"...and to produce a document that is in line with current guidance from WAG.”

By 2010, the WAG was demanding a more formal agreement between the counties involved in those exploratory discussions. That was discussed at full council on 9th March, 2010, when the resolution, not challenged by the then Labour opposition, simply read, "That members confirm support for the NWRWTP regional partnership as the option most likely to deliver best value for money for the council in the future." That inter-authority agreement was signed off by the county chairman and a legal officer in June of 2010.

However, as the process went on, what had started off as an open-ended discussion on method, with potential sites on Anglesy and on Deeside, with options for interested companies to offer other sites of their own choosing, was soon firmly closed down on by the Wales Government, which disposed of the Anglesy site and made it very clear that the project's essential support funding from them would only apply to an Energy from Waste solution, which, unfortunately, is what the county is very likely to end up with, in the same way the county ended up with the present co-incinerating cement works at Padeswood, way back in 2002, under a previous Labour controlled county council

If Cllr. Shotton, or Mark Tami, MP wishes to publicly debate the issue with me, working our way through the Project Initiation Document, The Inter-Authority Agreement, the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, the final Contract and the environmental awfulness of Incineration and Co-Incineration of Recyclable Waste Materials, that I shall be more than happy to do.


5. Fracking – One USA Jury’s Verdict

For those of you who read the letters page in the Leader newspaper, you will be aware of my opposition to the process, for many reasons. Just to let readers know that the fracking companies, despite their immense political and financial clout, do not always win, a court in Texas, back in April of this year, awarded $2.9 million to a family that alleged natural gas wells drilled on an adjacent property by Aruba Petroleum Inc. caused significant health and economic difficulties.
So much for the claims that fracking for shale gas extraction is environmentally friendly and harmless in health terms.


6. Dream or Nightmare?

There is a common worry in the UK that whenever America sneezes, the UK catches a cold. That was reinforced when the global financial mess of 2008 was found to have its origins in malpractices by certain big banks/financial institutions in the USA. All a matter of Toxic Debt that could not and never would be repaid. Suddenly the Great American Dream turned into a Great Global Nightmare. The worrying point is that that great country seems not to have learned from the problems.


One of that country’s best known presidents, Ronald Reagan, once went on record as stating:-
"We, as individuals, can live beyond our means by borrowing, but only for a limited period of time. Why then should we think that collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?"

Purely for your astonishment, I set out the following record of America’s growing, nay towering, debt burden.
In 2005, U.S. debt was $5.6 trillion.
In 2010, the debt level reached $13.5 trillion.
Today it's up to roughly $17,276,126,988,070.

In these times of global financial constraint, the USA has racked up, in the last year, another trillion dollars of debt.
Too much consumerism on tick? Too little exporting against too much importing? Too much paying for wars that perhaps never should have been started? Who knows? However, what we do know is that if the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund continue to permit that nation’s debt mountain to grow, it will inevitably topple over. If it does, then 2008’s financial crash will seem like a pussycat’s picnic.

7. Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be?

As this newsletter evidences, particularly the previous item, you all know that I keep banging on about Money Matters and the Avoidance of Debt. It largely comes from my involvement with CABx. Also, having spent nearly three years unemployed in my 40s, with a wife and two school-age children, I do know what “Pester Power” can be like and the strains of trying to live within one’s rather limited means. I also sampled the impact of a lack of street credibility, by living for a while without a car or annual holidays. For adults and children alike, a shortage of cash to spend is a drag. In our family’s case, it was no fun, but we managed. Perhaps by discovering that the most precious gift that one can give is your time.
However, the burden of un-manageable debt is a far greater and more destructive weight on anyone’s mind. It breaks up marriages and families. Tragically, it destroys individuals too.

So, as Christmas approaches, I do need to plead with readers not to try to emulate the USA. Spend what you can afford, not more. That may not get the corporate cash tills ringing or make the retail company shareholders dance for joy, but it will certainly see you into the New Year of 2015 with a smile on your face and a lighter step to your stride. If I can cause you to achieve that happy state, there will be a smile on my face and a spring in my stride too! Finally, if you encounter any problems and need a word of information or advice, remember that I can be contacted at any time via my home phone on 01244 549421 or my two email addresses of <arnooldwoolley@outlook.com> or <arnold.woolley@flintshire.gov.uk>

Merry Christmas
A Happy and Prosperous New Year
To You All

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