Short on cash? Or short on courage?


1. General.

Firstly, it is never too late to say “Thank You!” So, since this is my first newsletter since the local government elections way back in May, I hope you will not mind if I start with a huge thank you from me – and I am sure, from Richard Jones too - for the support that saw the pair of us re-elected at both Town and County levels on 4th May.

The results of the elections are now history and the new Labour Administration at county council has settled in. In all honesty, I cannot answer the question that many people have asked me, which is just why, Cllrs. Tony Sharps, Helen Brown and Carol Ellis, who have each accepted positions of special responsibility in the Labour Administration - and three others - switched their allegiance after the elections and decided to now support what was previously the Opposition Group. It is perhaps one of the oddities of our supposedly democratic system that 58% of the voting public of the county, which is quite a majority figure, now have governing them, for the next five years, an Administration of a political colour they did not vote for.

It is a further irony that when I invited Cllr. Aaron Shotton to take a seat on the Executive Committee, way back in 2008, he declined, on the grounds that he felt he and other Labour Party members would be happier being in opposition, given the sizeable economies needed to be made in the next few years. Having taken control this time around, Cllr Shotton and his party now have to grapple with finding further financial savings, probably even greater than the nearly £20Million that the Coalition Administration achieved over the past four years. Time alone will tell whether they can do that, without slashing services or employee numbers, or both!

2. The New Medical Centre.

The only certainty, as far as I am aware, is that it will appear. In the “wrong” place of course, as far as most, if not all, of Buckley’s residents are concerned, because it should have been located in the centre of the town, rather than a kilometre away. Sadly, we know we have lost that particular battle of where it should go. However, just when it will be up, running and welcoming patients through its doors is still a matter of argument and conjecture. The arguments are still between the Welsh Assembly, the District Valuator and the Developer. Flintshire County Council’s Planning and Development Control Department are standing by to assist or regulate, as and when an actual Planning Application is finally submitted. That event, it is hoped, will be soon and maybe will already have happened by the time you read this newsletter.

One side issue certainly has been decided. The Wales Government has granted permission for Lloyd’s Pharmacy, presently located within the precinct, to relocate to the new medical centre, once that is up and running.

Meanwhile, matters of road layout, parking, any bus stop or terminus, building layout and size are all yet to be determined. All that we long-suffering residents can count on presently is that nothing much is likely to happen on the ground, before next spring.
A small point that seems to be generally unknown is that some half-dozen years or so ago the county council’s planning committee gave outline planning permission for a replacement Medical Centre on the site of the current Padeswood Road North one. Sadly, for whatever reasons, the applicants never did progress that to completion.


3. The New Superstore.

Well, just like the New Medical Centre, the long talked about new superstore is also still eagerly awaited. Lately there has been a great deal of gossip on the ground about the alleged idiocy, lunacy and idleness of local councillors, including me, who have failed to produce the new superstore in Buckley.

I feel that I need to set out that all of us present councillors, at both town and county levels, share a strong feeling of frustration and impotence in relation to this project. We, individually and collectively, are, in practical terms, mere bystanders in this matter. We can express your wishes for this to happen. That we have done, loudly and at length! We can – and have – approved a Master Plan for the future development of the town centre, which reflects your wishes as residents. That Master Plan includes the provision of a new superstore, with some 30,000 sq ft. of retail sales space.
At county level, the regeneration team has, with support from town level, placed its Buckley town centre land holding, in effect the car park areas, “on the market” as it were, to attract some established and experienced private commercial developer to a) find a major retail company interested in setting up in Buckley, and, b) purchase tracts of privately owned land, such as the Potter’s Wheel, The Royal British Legion’s derelict clubhouse and even, just maybe, The Precinct, so as to have single ownership of an area of land of sufficient size and central location as to be attractive to one of the major retailers.

There have been interests expressed by developers of the size and experience needed, but, perhaps through the current economic situation generally, or because asking prices for the privately owned portions of land are way too high to be acceptable to interested developers, little progress has been made so far. So, councillors at town and county levels are in exactly the same position as ordinary residents are in this matter. All we too can do presently is to watch, wait, hope and be ready to facilitate, through the planning process, any developer’s agreeable plan that does come forward, whenever it does so.


4. The Co-op Store in Buckley.

I am not too sure that very many local residents are aware there have been plans, and then amended plans, recently submitted to county council by the Co-op organisation, which will have the effect, if approved, which they probably will be, of doubling the present retail floor space from 10,000sq. ft. up to 20,000. In simple terms, the present car parking area would disappear under a large warehouse area, the retail floor area would expand and there would be a new, large, car parking area where the undeveloped land is, between the back wall of the present building and the back gardens of Lexham Green Close. There will be a fresh set of entrance/exit doors to the retail floor, on the new car park side and a covered walkway around the building to facilitate shoppers crossing Precinct Way on the pedestrian crossing that exists there already.

It is not possible for me to say whether the Co-op organisation intends to develop the building and then continue trading from it in its expanded form, or to then sell it on to another trading entity. Only time will tell. What effect this development might have upon the general wish of residents to see another 30,000sq. ft. superstore appear in the town, I presently cannot work out. Again, only time will tell.


5. The Deeside Energy from Waste Plant.

As an active environmentalist, a member of the Zero Waste Alliance (UK) and of GAIA, the Global Alternative to Incineration Alliance, I have no love for incinerators or co-incinerators. Regrettably, Westminster and Cardiff appear to be totally gutless when it comes to thoughts, let alone deeds, of regulating and controlling the production of “throw-away” manufactured goods and their largely unwanted packaging, so that we reduce, instead of increase, the amount of domestic and commercial waste material that has to be disposed of, one way or another, at public expense.

It was the Labour Party Administration in control of the county in 2000 that approved the planning application for the Co-incinerating Padeswood Cement Works’ Kiln 4. It is Labour Party Policy at both Westminster and Cardiff that supports and encourages co-incinerating Energy from Waste Plants of the type that is now being visualized for Deeside as the focal point for disposing of all of North Wales’ residual solid domestic waste.

What the county originally signed up to a few years back was an agreement to work together across North Wales in order to achieve a combined and agreed solution for the treatment of our residual solid municipal waste. At that point in time it was an essential project, in view of the fact that Wales is fast running out of landfill capacity and is, like the rest of Europe, facing heavyweight infraction charges of £200 per tonne if we are over our ration come 2020. At the time it started, the project was supposed to be technology neutral, in that no particular method of treatment was ruled in, or out, of consideration. Similarly, there was supposedly a wide open choice of sites, with two “reference sites” indicated, one on Anglesey and one on Deeside. Any developer bidding into the process was invited to indicate any other site they might wish to bring forward themselves.

Time and circumstances have changed, until now, there are just two bidders, both proposing Co-incinerating Energy from Waste plants, with now just one site as their target, that being on Deeside and with the Wales Government now only willing to fund EfW. The current administration is putting out that this county council cannot now pull out of the agreement, because it would cost us £s millions to do so. I challenge that viewpoint. We, as an individual council and the several councils in the project as a whole, have not signed any deal as yet with any commercial developer. That will not happen until after February of 2013, if the project stays on course. So, who would sue us? The Wales Government? A fellow county council? That, I would suggest is quite preposterous. Yes, we might need to repay our share of the costs of progressing the project this far, but that would be nowhere near the frighteningly large figures being bandied about.

If the remaining councils in the project wished to, they could carry on with an EfW plant of reduced size. Unfortunately, they might still even put it on Deeside, because we cannot refuse any legitimate planning application, even if this county were not a provider of waste to it.

You might well ask what would we in Flintshire do with our residual solid municipal waste and how would we avoid the infraction charges from Europe come 2020. Well, the answer lies within Wales, in Presteigne and in Merthyr Tydfil, where the community enterprise, Cylch, with Welsh Government funding, is now operating municipal refuse collection schemes on a Zero Waste basis. Presteigne now achieves a 70% recycling rate, which is sufficient to guarantee that there will be no infraction charges there come 2020. With a little bit of forward thinking Flintshire could also achieve the same recycling figure, making us safe from infraction charges.

Why is it that what is good for Presteigne and Merthyr is not also good for the counties across North Wales? Why is the Wales Government not applying here that which they have supported in Presteigne and Merthyr?

What would really benefit us in North Wales and the environment too, would be an offer from the Wales Government to North Wales as a whole, such as has been offered to Presteigne and Merthyr. What Cylch and the Cwm Harry Trust have achieved down south needs replicating up here. That way, we could avoid an air polluting EfW plant on Deeside and EU infraction charges too. That would do it nicely, for everyone and the environment.


6. Changes to Benefits System (1).

Starting in April of 2013, a benefits cap will be introduced across the UK. That cap will limit the income from “Out of Work Benefits” that working-age households can receive, to the level of the average working income after tax, which is presently £500 per week for couples and lone parents. For single people it will be £350:00 per week. There are exceptions for DLA recipients, war widows and certain others. People will have 9 months protection from having their benefits restricted by the new cap, if they become unemployed after at least a year in work.

Changes will also occur in Council Tax Benefits. For a start, in simple terms, everyone who has either paid no Council Tax, or paid it at a reduced rate in past years, will be required to pay at a higher level than before. That increase in payment will be at or close to the level of 20% more than in past years. So, if you are paying less than full Council Tax at the moment, be prepared to pay more next year. Be ready for that and don’t let it catch you out and cause any debt problems.

Similarly, if you are in receipt of Housing Benefit and presently renting and occupying an over-sized residence; that is one that has, strictly speaking, more bedrooms than your family size indicates you need, then be prepared for either a requirement for you to downsize, or a demand for you to pay the difference in rental value between your essential, cheaper, needs and what you are occupying now. In rough figures, if you are over-housed by one bedroom, it will cost you £10 per week, by two bedrooms, £19:00 per week.


There are exceptions for severely disabled children and certain others. Persons of state pensionable age will not be affected.
If you feel that you could be affected by the changes, please make inquiries well ahead of time so that nothing comes at you as a nasty shock after March.

Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans will also be abolished. Money currently spent on these items will be given to the Wales Government who will oversee the creation of a new scheme in Wales, designed to assist residents in need of such items as basic household furniture.

Please remember, for those of you who will be affected by the new regulations, the changes come from UK Government policy revisions and not from anything that this local authority, or even the Wales Government has set in motion. There are two motivators behind the changes. The first is that UK cannot go on handing out something like £80 Billion per year on Social Welfare costs. The second is that there has to be better control of expenditure, so that what the nation can afford goes to those who rightly need assistance, not to those whose street-wise skills, or downright dishonesties, allow them to claim taxpayers’ money that they are not fairly and reasonably entitled to.


7. Changes to Benefits System (2).

In addition to the items set out at 6 above, from October of 2013, there will be a general simplification of the present system of assorted benefits. All existing claims for means-tested benefits and tax credits claimed by people of working age, whether in or out of work, are going to be merged into one single benefit, called “Universal Credit.” That new item will be a base-line, with additional allowances for families with children, disabilities or health problems that limit their ability to work. All I can advise is that if you are in receipt of Benefits of any kind you should pay close attention to information about the changes, as it becomes available. If you believe the changes will have, or are likely to have, an impact upon you, do make sure that you seek advice and that you are clear about what may be ahead of you in reduction of income terms. Speak to CABx. Speak to our county council Benefits Advice Team. Whatever you do, don’t get caught out by doing nothing!

While this will cause problems for some individuals and for some families, whether those are accommodated in social or private housing stock, Flintshire county council too will suffer. There is likely to be a £600,000 loss of income within the county, because, in respect of Housing Benefit changes alone, coming into effect in April, 2013, the county could be facing a loss of income of some £650,000 per annum. Making that loss of income worse is the probability that there will be a greater need for this local authority to be able to step forwards to assist cases of genuine hardship caused by the regulatory changes.

Foreseeing what was likely to occur, in January of 2012 the then Coalition Administration’s Executive Committee approved the development of a Flintshire Welfare Reform Strategy, across four themes, aimed at mitigating the likely negative impacts of the Welfare Reform Proposals from Westminster. The four themes were:-
1) Welfare Reform and Homelessness.
2) Local Welfare Assistance.
3) Council Tax Replacement Scheme.
4) Implementation of the Universal Credit.

There is now in existence a Welfare Reform Programme Board, chaired by the Leader of the county council. We shall have to wait to see how well that body does in easing the plight of those disadvantaged by the coming changes.


8. Decriminalised Parking.

The situation of parking of cars in the county is confused. Presently, the North Wales Police are required to enforce roadside parking regulations. County council is responsible for enforcing regulations within car park areas it owns. Buckley, Deeside and most other areas do not require car parking payments at county owned sites. Holywell and Mold do have parking charges at such locations. Holywell TC wishes to be free of such burdens or to see equality across the county. Mold TC apparently wishes to keep car parking charges whatever happens elsewhere.

In the last financial year, the county made a loss on car parking activities of over £35,000. One way or another, that loss has to be ended. During the term of the previous administration, the process of moving towards decriminalised parking was commenced. It progressed painfully slowly, but is still being progressed. By the way, Flintshire is the only county in North Wales that does not yet have decriminalised parking. The intended change-over is probably still more than a year away. It will depend upon a successful proposal being submitted to the Wales Government, sometime in the future. If approved, it will mean that the police will still be responsible for any endorsable offence, which is any that will earn you points on your licence, but that all other offences, such as failing to pay where required to do so, or staying too long, or parking across demarcation lines, would become civil affairs, as breaches of contract, instead of being contraventions of laws. Enforcement would be by officers employed and empowered by the county council.

Along with this arrangement we may see neighbourhood parking controls, with permitted/paid-for roadside parking, with purchased permits for householders to park outside their own properties as exists already in many neighbourhoods throughout the UK. It is important that, in the scheme of these intended changes, ordinary residents and car users/drivers’ opinions, concerns and preferences are taken into consideration. If you have a viewpoint, for or against the process of decriminalised parking, speak up now, please.


9. Buckley Little Theatre.

I wonder just how many local councillors and other residents have ever attended any of the plays, variety shows, or pantomimes that this dedicated band of thespians regularly design and perform at the Hawkesbury Little Theatre? Their last variety show, during September, was a rich display of real talent, all of it locally grown. The acts ranged from dancers, to vocalists, musicians and comedians. They were all superbly supported by the back stage management team and the sound and lighting technicians.
My only surprise was that there were some empty seats in the auditorium on the evening my wife and I attended the show. With the quality of performance that was delivered, by local people, the evening spoke loudly of a whole lot of hard rehearsal work put to very good effect. Every performance deserved to be totally sold out. So, come on now all of you readers, because, with Christmas fast approaching and performances of “Little Red Riding Hood” already being advertised for Friday 30th November and Saturday 1st Thursday 6th, Friday 7th Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th December, you need to get your tickets booked soon so that you and your children of all ages don’t miss out on a grand evening out right on your doorstep.

Tickets are available at Sheila Williams’s jewellery shop in the precinct, or make a phone call to Sue Morton on 07921683745 to make sure of your seats. If you have never been to this little gem of a theatre before, you really should give it a try. You will not be disappointed, that I will guarantee!

10. Christmas & The New Year.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. In these difficult and fast changing times, please remember that a good neighbour is the best medicine that anyone can have and that your time and a few kind words are two of the most precious gifts to offer to anyone, be they family, friends, or strangers.


If you wish to contact me, please use: 75 Bryn Awelon, Buckley, CH7 2QF (01244) 549421(H), (01352) 752121(FCC) or