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)  Hearts and Minds.
    Some time ago, in my years in Africa, during a discussion concerning one of our would-be local politicians, one of my local police officers commented of the man, not unkindly, “Sir, he has a good heart, but it is not connected to his brain!”  

    That remark crept in to my thinking as I watched the process that recently placed Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.  To his credit, he is clearly a man of the people, but, on the debit side, many of his ideas are decidedly Utopian. 

    Who would not love to live in a world totally free of the nuclear threat?  Who would not wish to live in a UK free of the cost burdens of defence, intelligence and surveillance agencies?  Who would not wish to live in a UK where education was a world leader, skills were high, unemployment was unknown; where wages were equal and sufficient to prevent fuel and food poverty and medical services were tip-top, fast and free?

    Sadly, we have to live in our real world, with all of its rivalries, loves, hatreds and indifferences; where there are clear internal and external threats, economic, political, theological, environmental and physical.

    Let us all hope that the gentleman has a team of wise advisors who can keep his feet on the ground and one eye on balancing the national books.  If not, there will be no credible and effective Opposition to the present Conservative Government.  That will be a tragedy for everyone, for the record of democratic governance informs us that thorough scrutiny and competent opposition are essentials for the creation of sound governance of any nation, regardless of which political party is in power.

    (2)  Corporate Clout.
    What price good health and well-being?
    Well, recently, so it would seem, certain major pharmaceutical companies, and the legislators who could and should control them, appear to have decided that the price, to us ordinary folks, is nowhere near enough.

    New York’s Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli sparked outrage when he recently jacked up the price of the drug Daraprim, a 62-year-old medicine more lately used to treat toxoplasmosis in HIV patients, from $13.50 to $750 a tablet – amounting to a 5,000% increase.

    It took a global outpouring of anger from health professionals and ordinary people and some apparent board-room concern over corporate image to force him to hastily reconsider and hopefully reverse that callous decision. 

    Regrettably, while that particular item is, apparently, being put right, the price per tablet of several other commonly used chemical drugs has also sky-rocketed.  Here are just a few:-
    Doxycycline Hyclate, a common antibiotic, 4 cents per tablet in 2013, now $3.70 per tablet. Up 8,281%.
    Albuterol Sulphate, used to treat asthma, 11 cents per tablet in 2013, now $4.34 per tablet.  Up 4,014%.
    Glycopyrrolate, used to treat irregular heartbeats during surgery,  $6.50 per vial in 2013, now $127.70 per vial.  Up 2,728%.
    Pravastatin Sodium, used to treat high cholesterol and prevent heart disease, 5 cents per tablet in 2013 now 39 cents per tablet.  Up 573%.  
    There are many more such examples.

    Is it any wonder that the profits of “Big Pharmaceutical” companies have been very healthy lately, while hospitals and health services, globally, are struggling to balance their books?              

    It does not matter whether the pills are paid for directly from the pocket of an unfortunate HIV patient, or provided from tax revenues within a state-run health system.  It is still money ripped uncaringly and greedily out of reach of and benefit for ordinary people, into the profit-line of some global corporation.  That legislators, world-wide, who could and should have prevented that sort of racketeering, have decided to take no action, surely speaks volumes and tells us, loudly and clearly, just whose side they are on.

  1. What’s Going On in Buckley?

(1)  Another Controlled Pedestrian Crossing:
   I suppose it is only natural that some people in the public eye wish to grab the credit, rightly or wrongly, whenever anything beneficial for the community appears on the horizon.  As far as I am aware, the controlled pedestrian crossing shortly to be created across Precinct Way, in that stretch between the new Aldi Store and the Jubilee Court bungalows, arose purely from an approach by Aldi to our county council planning department, offering to pay for such a crossing if that was permissible.

Acting sensibly and properly, planning department officers advised that all that was needed was for Aldi to make application for an appropriate adjustment to their existing approved planning application and to sort out the necessary liaison with FCC’s Highways Officers and all would be well.  As I compile this, the precise location of the crossing is appearing as work on it has begun for all to see.  By the time you read this, it should be in use.

(2) Boo!
If Aldi deserve a pat on the back for funding that controlled pedestrian crossing mentioned above, they certainly deserve a brickbat for what they have done to the disabled parking bays set along the walkway from the Precinct back entrance to the Aldi Store.  As one of the ward councillors for the area, I have had a dozen or more complaints that the triangular concrete intrusions created by what appear to be tree or flower beds, are causing severe obstruction and difficulty for legitimate users of those bays.

It is probably opportune to mention at this point in my newsletter that the total lack of “Parent & Child” parking bays is also giving cause for concern and annoyance.

All I can say is that I drew the problems faced by disabled and family drivers to the attention of Mark Tami, MP and asked him to make representations to county council.  The he kindly did on 28th August, 2015.  The recent reply from FCC was unhelpful.   Meanwhile, I have spoken myself to Aldi, whose site manager has advised me that there will be no removal of the triangular tree-beds.

(3)  The New Medical Centre, Traffic & Transport: 
It is little comfort to anyone for us town councillors to say, “We told them so!” about the obvious need for a dedicated shuttle-bus service from town centre to the new medical centre.   Precisely what we local folks, town councillors and others, warned about, from the start, has come to pass. Pensioners, whether frail or of limited mobility or not, cannot afford £3 or more each way for a taxi each time they need to attend the place.  Sadly, despite the best efforts of Cllr. Dennis Hutchinson in his role as a shuttle-bus operator, the schedule agreed with county council’s transport officers is of limited frequency, entailing much waiting around for those who wish to use his bus service, which does now call there.

Even those who attempt to use mobility scooters to travel to and from the new barn face an uncomfortable, indeed somewhat unsafe, journey. Such a situation is not how it should be.  Because of that, even though the mind-set of officialdom, at National and County levels seems to be  that it is all over and done, some of us councillors are of a decidedly different viewpoint and are quite prepared to keep the issue alive until some satisfactory solution is put in place.

(4)  Iceland Store:   
Standing out from the down-puts of banks closing and post offices moving, it has been good to see the completion of the expansion of Iceland’s store within the Precinct and to note that it appears to be finding favour with customers.  That company’s faith in Buckley as a viable retail centre is welcomed by all residents.                   

(5)  A Costa Coffee Shop?:
Following the granting of approval for change of use at the previously Parish’s greengrocery and flower shop, in the Precinct, to a Costa Coffee shop on 15th July, there has been little visible sign of progress.  On the grapevine, come rumours that there have been electricity supply problems and some disagreement over rental charges and so on. 

Fortunately, the authoritative word, from the precinct’s management company, to Buckley’s town councillors, is that despite slow negotiations and a need for some adaptations within the particular retail unit, the Costa Coffee Shop is still on course to appear in the near future.

(6)  Barnardo’s Too!
Okay. I know, a lot of residents feel that the last thing Buckley’s town centre needs is another charity shop.    However, the precinct’s management company have also advised councillors that a Barnardo’s shop is shortly going to appear in the unit not long ago vacated by Lloyd’s Chemists when that business re-located to the new barn, a.k.a. the New Medical Centre.

From my point of view, any retail activity that clears away whitewashed windows and encourages footfall anywhere in the town centre is welcome and I wish them well with their endeavour.

(7)  All Change?

In the presentation recently made to your town councillors, the precinct’s management company also advised that the owners of the precinct have agreed to make changes to the front of the precinct, where Nice Price and NatWest Bank once traded.  The information provided advised us that those two units will be re-configured into just one unit of somewhere in the order of 4,000 sq. ft. of retail space, in order to attract retailers of the nature of Pound-Stretcher or their competitors.  That kind of positive commitment to the town is very welcome.  So folks, we can look forward to seeing some welcome changes in that area.  Hopefully without too much delay.

(8)  The Old Buckley Baths Building:  
Not a lot to add to what I set out in my last newsletter. The three remaining Directors of the Old Buckley Baths Building Company Ltd., do have title to the property itself.  At date of writing, they have not yet set up any bank accounts for the company and have not yet been able to obtain the all-essential charitable registration for their enterprise.  What they have done is to engage with Flintshire Local Voluntary Council and with Flintshire County Council in order to seek support and guidance in their efforts to turn the derelict building into the thriving multi-functional community hall that was established as being what the town needs.

What the enterprise clearly does need if it is to succeed, is the appearance of a competent project manager.  I suspect that position is a little beyond the time involvement that either FLVC or FCC would wish to take on.

Meanwhile, way back in 2011, your Town Council voted the sum of £30,000:00 of your money to be set aside to assist in getting the job done.  While that sum might go part way towards providing a paid-for project manager, not one penny of that can, lawfully, be handed over at the moment. That is because the town council cannot simply give money to any private enterprise, no-matter how deserving that enterprise might appear to be.  When the present Directors do set up a formal bank account for their company, the town council could offer a loan, but that would be contingent upon those directors being prepared to sign up to accepting, individually and severally, liability for the money and responsibility for paying it back, should the intended enterprise fail to follow through to successful completion.

Meanwhile, once Flintshire County Council handed over their ownership of the property to the new company, their global property insurance cover naturally fell away, leaving the Old Baths Building uninsured.  That situation .places the baths and all adjoining buildings at risk, which is not a good place to be.

So, until the current Directors get a wiggle on and sort out some insurance cover, a corporate bank account, the matter of charitable status for their company, the positioning of a project manager and the formal naming of a company secretary and treasurer, I for one see little progress likely.  For the sake of a lovely old building and the future social fabric of Buckley Town itself, I hope the current directors do get wiggling!

(9)  The Site of the Disused Precinct Medical Centre:
There is some considerable conflict of opinion arising over what is to become of the now dis-used medical centre that used to house the Roseneath and Bradley medical practices.

Fortunately for Buckley, Grwp Cynefin, a social landlord, appears to be intent on pursuing their interest in the site.  Their initial proposals for 22 apartments has been upped to 24 and the company is making all of the right moves and noises needed in order to get on with progressing their planning application.

There is a wee bit of discussion still going on about whether the accommodation should be reserved for Older People, or be reserved for younger single people and couples. County Council’s planning officers are claiming greater need exists for accommodation for younger persons, single or couples, while more local voices are talking of an even greater need for downsized accommodation for Older People, with or without any Warden support.

It is very early days yet, but, at least a developer has come forward with workable proposals and some artists impressions, which, we hope could lead to a detailed planning application and a completed project in the fullness of time. 

However, residents need to know that the land to be sold to Grwp Cynefin is owned by the NHS.  The previous usage as a medical centre was in keeping with the fact that the land was within the area of Buckley zoned for retail and commercial activities.  Without any discussion that I was aware of, our county planning officers relatively recently re-drew that demarcated zone so as to exclude what was the old medical centre land from the retail
or commercial limitation.  It was that re-drawing of the boundary which provided the opportunity for Grwp Cynefin to put in an application for apartments on the site.

That has now created a situation whereby we sitting councillors need to scratch our heads a little before making a decision on the Grwp Cynefin proposal.  Do we opt for more affordable housing for young or old, or should we rather protect the area zoned for retail and commercial activity so as to ensure that there is at least room for any interested developer in the future to establish that kind of enterprise in what is in real terms a location right in the centre of the town?

Not at all an easy choice, but one we shall have to make, in the near future.  Whichever way we decide, I have no doubt that there will be plenty of voices telling us, afterwards, that we made the wrong decision.

3.  Future Town Councillor Numbers in Buckley.
It may have slipped past you un-noticed, but there has recently been held a Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales, called in to being by the Welsh Assembly Government.  That commission has now completed its work and submitted its findings to the Minister, stating its recommendations in relation to town and community council boundaries and the individual ward boundaries and number of councillors needed within them.

That commission has not recommended any actual boundary changes in relation to our town, which it has done with regard to several others. However, it has submitted recommendations for changes to the number of councillors, in an effort to try to even up, theoretically, the number of electors any particular town councillor represents.   The numbers on the electoral roll do fluctuate, up and down, as residents move about and populations dwindle or grow.  However, currently, the figures are:-
                                                    Current Cllr. Number    Proposed Cllr. Number
Bistre East,  2,729 Electors                         5                                 5
Bistre West, 3,370     ,,                                6                                 5
Mountain,    2,342     ,,                                2                                 4
Pentrobin,    3,736     ,,                                5                                 6 
      Total = 12,177 Electors          Total = 18                   Total = 20

If Ministerial approval is forthcoming, which is likely, the new figures will be applied in the next set of local government elections in Wales, presently expected in May of 2017.

4.  Flintshire – Off-Loading Regardless?                
I trust that by now there is hardly any single one of you who is unaware that, at county council level, there is a shortfall in our revenue budget, for this current year and for the next two years, amounting to about £52 Million.

One part of the current Labour administration’s proposals for trying to patch up that shortfall is to off-load cost and responsibility for a number of assets, such as recreation centres, community centres, swimming
pools, skate-board parks, recreation grounds and play areas, to interested voluntary groups around the county, including town and community councils, under the title of “Community Asset Transfer.”

The mantra being touted by the county administration is that of, “We can no longer afford to provide these facilities, so we are offering them to you, the community to keep them running.  If you say “No thank You” it will be your fault when they close, not ours!”   That is being just a little disingenuous (for which, read “crafty”), because there really is no transfer as such.  All that is being offered is a 27 year lease, during which time all costs and responsibilities will accrue to those who sign up.

Worse still, the county, because of the nature of its accounting records, appears to have no idea of the exact and precise income and outlay figures over the years for those assets that do attract an income, such as recreation centres, swimming pools and cricket and football clubs, let alone those that do not.  In Buckley’s case, we have investigated what it might cost if we, as your council, were to attempt to take over all 14 play areas, the skate-board park, recreation centre, swimming pool and other assets currently kept functioning by FCC. 

The best figures we have been able to obtain for Buckley indicate an annual cost of £1.1Million against income of £400,000, leaving a shortfall of some £600,000, which could only come about from starting to charge for entry to play areas, skate-board parks and the likes, which is unthinkable.  That, or, to increase your town precept by fourfold, which we would not do without your prior approval. Whether you did agree or not could only be established by a formal consultation, which we would of course enter into, so that any decision we councillors might make would reflect your wishes, rather than just the views of the 18 of us sitting round the council chamber. (As an aside, if you reckon that fourfold figure is outrageous, if Flintshire wishes to fund its probable shortfall itself, it would need to increase our Community Charge by some 41%!  Fortunately, the Minister would cap us at 5%, so a 41% increase is impossible.)

Even before we might get to that point of seeking your views, there are practical issues to be sorted out if it is a community group, rather than a council, bidding to take on something.  Recreation grounds, skate-board parks and play areas need annual inspection by qualified people.  They need insuring for public liability and maintaining.  A simple see-saw will cost you around £4,000 to replace. An intricate climbing frame with a slide could cost you £20,000.  If you are dealing with a building, are you sure it is structurally sound before you sign up? Is your community group going to be unincorporated (informal) or an incorporated body (Ltd) or a registered charity?  Who will be liable if it folds, short of the 27 years it signed up for?
5.  North Wales Energy Advice Centre
NWEAC is a well-established social enterprise based in the Corlan building on the Bromfield Industrial Estate in Mold.  Part of their remit is to provide free and impartial energy advice to households, community groups and small businesses.  Ensuring that homes, community rooms and small businesses are as energy efficient as they can be will not only benefit anyone struggling with high fuel bills and energy costs, but also benefit the wider community and the environment we all share.  So, since every penny saved is a penny earned and pennies make pounds, as granny often used to say, why not get in touch with them today?

Technocrats among readers can find them on the web at www.nweac.org.uk, on Facebook at North Wales Energy Advice Centre and on Twitter @NWenergyadvice.  If that is not enough, try Michele Jones via her email, michele@nweac.org.uk   For Luddites like me, they do have a telephone line, the number of which is 01352 876040.

6.  North Wales Fire & Rescue Services                        
Our homes and businesses are strewn with a plethora of electronically-powered items, from radios and TV sets to cookers and boilers.  They are so common that we all tend to take them for granted.  They are there and they work.  That’s it!   Sadly, for more people each year than I like to think about, that was not it, because their faulty electrical appliances (particularly poor wiring and overloaded sockets) led to fires, resulting in injury and death.

North Wales Fire & Rescue Service is running a scheme entitled “Stay Safe in The Home.”   If you call for it, experienced officers will visit you, at a mutually convenient time, to carry out a free home fire safety check. Apart from general fire safety advice, they will supply and fit, for free, any smoke alarms they establish that you need.

There are two telephone numbers for your convenience, 0800 169 1234, or 01978 367870.  Why not give them a call?  It could just be a life-saver – yours!

7.  Cyber Safety!
Carrying on with the theme of safety, for the many ward residents who, like me, have computers and internet activities as part of their lives, whether to a lesser or greater degree, please do take note that this past year has seen something in the order of an 80% increase in cyber frauds and scams.  The problem is that the perpetrators are getting very sophisticated and very successful – and it is not just the elderly who are being taken for a whole lot of money. 

Most of us have a number of regular weekly or monthly payments going out from our financial accounts to mortgage companies, landlords, insurances, pensions, utilities and even charities.   If you receive an apparently genuine email from any organisation you make regular payments to, telling you that they have altered their administrative procedures and advising that you now need to make payments to exactly the same details as always, but on a new account number and if you have any queries just phone xxxxx or inquire by return email, please make sure you just delete it, fast!.  If you do feel the need to ask questions of the organisation involved, make sure you use any number other than the one in the email – and never email them in reply!.

It has become clear that the internationally organised crime barons have either hacked into the IT systems of all sorts of reputable and supposedly secure organisations, or have perhaps persuaded employees in those organisations to work with them, for hefty rewards.  These criminals will move your money fast, from overseas account to overseas account, to nations that do not have International Backing of Warrant Agreements or Extradition Agreements and are generally outside of any Interpol obligations. That means they can get at you and your bank and credit arrangements if you are not careful, but you simply cannot get back at them. Don’t let them get you!

8.  When You’ve Got To Go….!

Sticking with the theme of keeping your money where it should be, but without getting morbid, in the end the Grim Reaper is going to get us all.   Some tragically early, the more fortunate ones a whole lot later.

Recently I have had to help sort out two intestate estates, where individuals have chosen not to make out any Will during their lifetimes.  Bereavement is never a comfortable happening, but an intestate bereavement, especially if there are living kin, not only deepens the anguish, but can create situations where estates that should have been Willed to relatives, or a favourite charity, thus staying clear of any tax burden, can become vulnerable to the unwanted attention of HMRC, the dreaded Tax Man.  If you, reader, are an adult person, particularly one of mature years, without an existing Will, do please give some serious consideration to making one out, either by a visit to your solicitor, or by doing it yourself, using the appropriate forms and guidance notes now commonly available from reputable stationers or on the www.

9.  What Are We Eating?

Globally, the case for labeling GMO food has been boiling over in recent years.   Here in the UK, despite steadily growing pressure, arising from concerns about the long-term effects of GMOs in general and in particular just what they do to the natural enzymes and beneficial bacteria in our guts, the governments in power have refused to legislate to make food producers clearly label consumer goods that have GMO content with just that fact.  That democratic step would of course enable shoppers to exercise some consumers’ choice, which appears to be the last thing that the big grocery companies anywhere want, or our UK Governments of any political shade are prepared to agree to.
                          Once again the question arises, “Whose side are they on?”

 However, as a firm believer in the modern axiom that whenever America sneezes, the UK catches the cold, you might find the following story interesting.

In May 2014, over in the USA, Vermont became the first state to pass a GMO content labelling law. Unsurprisingly, that law was immediately opposed by the GMA (the Grocers’ Manufacturing Association).  That organization promptly sued the State of Vermont, claiming GMOs are “safe and have important benefits for people and our planet.”  They also claimed that it would be too burdensome and costly for national food and beverage manufacturers in the USA to make a special GMO label for Vermont, different from the other 49 states.

In June 2014, the GMA, as well as the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and National Association of Manufacturers, asked for a preliminary injunction against implementation of the Vermont labeling law at the state’s District Court. District Judge Christina Reiss denied the request, so the groups promptly filed a joint appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City. Opening arguments for Grocery Manufacturers Association, et al. v. Sorrell, Case No. 15-1504, were heard earlier in October.  Unless the Second Circuit panel rules in favor of the food groups, or a federal law supersedes Vermont, that state’s labeling law could open a doorway for at least 30 other states that are considering GMO label laws.

Opinion polls allegedly indicate that in both the USA and the UK something in the order of 93% of shoppers support mandatory labeling of GMOs. Added to that, there is the fact that 64 countries world-wide have either banned GMOs or require labeling. Also weighing heavily in the scales of public opinion is the recent classification by the World Health Organisation of glyphosate, the main ingredient in biotech giant Monsanto’s popular herbicide/weed-killer Roundup as a possible carcinogen.  If you are thinking that Monsanto might not take that decision lying down, you are quite right.  Monsanto have now gone to court, demanding that the WHO reverse their decision.

While Monsanto will be paying the no-doubt heavy cost of their law-suit from the ample profits of their annual $11Billion world-wide corporate income, the costs of the WHO’s legal defence team will, in the end, come out of public funds, for which, read the pockets of you and I.

If you take this item and add it to the burgeoning price of essential medicines that I mentioned in opening this newsletter and have regard to the fact that, globally, wealth is remorselessly flowing away from the millions of ordinary people, towards Corporations, give or take a few Billionaires, one has to wonder if the 1970s book entitled “When Corporations Rule The World” has not come true.

10.  Some People!

Regular readers of my newsletters will be aware that I do keep an eye open for oddities of human behaviour that make me shake my head in wonder.  On that theme, I offer you the following:-
In the USA, clearly on the down side of human nature, Jennifer Connell is suing her now 12 year old nephew, Sean Tarala, for $127,000.  The basis of the case is that four years ago, on his eighth birthday, when she visited his home, he lovingly flung himself into her arms, causing her to fall.  In the fall, she broke her wrist.  She took no action then, but, more recently has now filed suit for compensation, before her county’s Superior Court.  A six person jury will hear the case and make their decision shortly.  Her expectation seems to be that the boy’s father, Michael Tarala, who reportedly has a few pennies to his name, will pay up if she wins the case.  The grounds for her action are that the then eight year old behaved negligently and recklessly, leaving her with injuries that have adversely affected her life in Manhatten where she lives. She told the court that she now finds it difficult, when at parties, to hold her hors d’oeuvre plate. 

On the up side of human nature in the USA, the woman has found herself universally vilified on all of the social media, as well as in the press and TV.
6.  Finally!
Christmas and the New Year are not far off.  Some of you may be aware that in one of my several voluntary engagements, I am chair of the Flintshire Citizens Advice Bureaux.   For the past dozen or more years, after each Christmas, New Year and the Festive Season in general, CABx offices and volunteers have been, regularly, literally inundated, throughout February and March, with worried, even distraught, individuals and families whose eagerness and determination to enjoy themselves has stretched far ahead of their ability to pay up as the inevitable bills have rolled in. 

Please do some early budgeting, in order to sort out what you can and cannot afford and stick to it.  That way the Christmas and New Year smiles on your hopefully happy faces will have a chance of staying there right through to Easter and beyond.
I wish you all a safe, happy and affordable Christmas and New Year.


Please 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 is always there for your use.
(01244) 549421 and arnooldwoolley@outlook.com

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