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Previous Newsletters

A Taste of Honey, or a Waste of Money? (Autumn 2005)

A Honeypot for Some, A Heartache for Others (November 2006)

Mighty Mouse or Mickey Mouse (Autumn 2007)

An Open Door or a Closed Book (December 2007)

Goodness Gracious Me (July 2008)

A going Concern or a Gone Goose (August 2008)

Ahead of the Game or Head in the Sand? (Summer 2009)

Incomparable or in Chaos (August 2010)

Rough Waters Ahead, Safe Harbour Beyond (November 2010)

Awesome or awful? Only Time Will Tell (March, 2011)

An Open Door or a Closed Book (June 2011) (July 2011)
Careful Collaborators or Complete Charleys? (November, 2011)

Safe Hands or Butterfingers? (March 2012)

Short on Cash or Short on Courage? (November 2012)

A Small Cog? or a Big Wheel? (May 2013)

Up for it? Or Past It? (November 2013)

September 2014

Buckley, Flintshire and Beyond (December 2014)

April 2015

August 2015

December 2015

March 2016

Agile? or Fragile? Time will Tell!! (August 2016)

November 2016

January 2017

August 2017

November 2017

March 2018

August 2018

November 2018

June 2019

 

1 What World Are They In?:

I open this latest newsletter with that question for one simple reason. That being that in recent conversations, with umpteen residents of the ward and town in general, that is the question those people have been putting to me. Although the particular “They” in question has varied a little, from Westminster Government to Welsh Assembly Government and even Flintshire County Council, the general classification has been, “Our Decision-Makers”, right across the collection of local, regional and national organisations.


My standard reply to that very fair question, has, on each occasion, been the same. “Not the world which you and I live in, that is for sure!”


Let me start at the Westminster level, without banging on about the dreaded “B” word and the 2016 Referendum, because that has become “Groan and Switch Off “ territory, no-matter which side you were on three years back. We are all aware that our Parliamentary Democracy has evolved, without any formally written Constitution, over centuries, to be what it is today, but do we ordinary folks really understand what makes Parliamentarians tick?


Edmund Burke was a respected scholar and statesman in the 1700s. In 1774, he set out his opinion, in his, “Speech to the Electors at Bristol at the Conclusion of the Poll.” That opinion was notable for its statement concerning the principles of representative governance versus delegated governance. Burke refuted the idea that elected officials should simply be delegates. That was because he saw delegates as being placed in position purely to put forward the opinions and wishes of those who have elected them to office. His lifelong conviction was that those elected to office were representatives of those who elected them. The representative, so Burke claimed, is there to exercise, “… his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, which he ought not to sacrifice to any person, or to any set of people.” Burke further claimed that, “These he does not derive from any electors’ pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays you, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”


In simple terms, Burke was there, in Parliament, not to do the bidding of his electorate, but the bidding of his own mind.
It is clear to me and many others, that it is Edmund Burke’s stated philosophy which is being followed by many in this modern Parliament, as their reason for “doing their own thing,” instead of supporting and implementing the firmly expressed wishes of the majority of their own constituency’s electorate, whichever way that body of electors voted in the 2016 B-word Referendum.
From that, you may rightly take it that I do not subscribe to Edmund Burke’s viewpoint.

2. Do We Think They Will Take Any Notice?:

“They” in question being, once again, our benighted Parliamentarians! Do read on, please:-


Making social care free at the point of need for over 65s could save the NHS £4.5bn each year by 2030, according to a recent report from the Institute of Public Policy Research, a government supported “Think-Tank.”


The savings would come from scrapping ‘NHS continuing care’ as well as reducing admissions to hospitals and delayed transfers of care, the Institute of Public Policy Research said in a report published very recently. ‘NHS continuing care’ is social care arranged and funded by the health service. The think-tank suggested increasing income tax by two percentage points could help pay for the provision of free care.


IPPR suggested that its proposals would “…help shift patients back into the community and deliver higher quality and better integrated services, resulting in potential savings to the NHS of up to £4.5bn per year.” The think-tank said the change would increase the number of people in England with access to state-funded care from 185,000 to 440,000 if the changes were made right now. Harry Quilter-Pinner, senior research fellow at IPPR and lead author of the report, said: “If you develop cancer in England you are cared for by the NHS, free at the point of need for as long as it takes, but if you develop dementia you’re likely to have to pay for all your own social care – running up potentially catastrophic costs in the last years of your life. This makes no sense. “By investing in personal social care so it is free at the point of need for everyone over 65, we can provide a better and more integrated care system, one that’s fairer to us all and saves the NHS £4.5bn a year.”


The report noted that spending on adult social care for over 65s would rise from £17bn a year today to £36bn in 2030, before NHS and other savings are factored in. Devolved Wales Government kindly take note!

The IPPR also called for reforms to the way social care is commissioned and delivered to provide a more joined-up relationship between health and social care. It suggests a system of integrated health and care commissioners under which GPs, nurses, mental health workers and social care workers would work locally in integrated teams.


David Hochlaf, IPPR researcher and co-author of the report, said: “Adding a penny of two to tax is a small price to pay for creating a simpler, joined-up system in which we collectively contribute to the costs that many of us and our relatives will otherwise face.”
In April Public Finance Magazine learned that the social care green paper has been delayed due to the need for “greater consideration” of proposals. Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which leads the Health for Care coalition, said the IPPR’s suggestion was a “credible proposal for tackling social care funding shortfalls. Countless people and their families are facing intolerable conditions just to get the basic care they need, and this also has a knock-on effect for social care's sister service, the NHS,” Dickson said. "Clearly solutions exist and what we need now, after decades of neglect from all parties in government, is the commitment to end this unfairness.” Devolved Wales Government, kindly take even more note!!

3. Whatever Happened to “Ethical Business”?:

“Pharmaceutical firms accused of illegally colluding to drive up drug prices, ‘costing the NHS millions”
Four pharmaceutical firms have been accused of illegally colluding to restrict the supply of an anti-nausea tablet, drastically driving up prices by 700%, the competition watchdog has alleged.


Between December 2013 and December 2017, the cost of Prochlorperazine, also known as “buccal” tablets, rose from £6.49 per pack to £51.68 after the drug companies agreed not to compete for the supply of the prescription-only drug. The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had provisionally found that Alliance Pharmaceuticals, Focus, Lexon and Medreich entered into an overarching arrangement through two separate agreements.


Under these alleged agreements, Alliance supplied the drug exclusively to Focus, who then paid Lexon a share of the profits it earned on the onward sales of Alliance’s drugs. Lexon, in turn, allegedly shared these payments with Medreich. The CMA alleges each of the agreements individually broke competition law, and the resulting price hike has lost the NHS millions, as costs rose from £2.7m to £7.5m between 2013 and 2018 despite the NHS dispensing fewer packs.

Ann Pope, CMA senior director of antitrust, said: “Agreements where a company pays a rival not to enter the market can lead to higher prices and deprive the NHS of huge savings that often result from competition between drug suppliers. The NHS should not be denied the opportunity of benefitting from an increased choice of suppliers, or lower prices, for important medicine.”
This is CMA’s provisional finding and the companies now have the chance to respond before a final decision is made, with the watchdog capable of imposing a 10% financial penalty.


Alliance Pharmaceuticals has denied the allegations, stating it had: “no involvement in the pricing or distribution of Prochlorperazine since 2013, when it was out-licensed by the company to Focus Pharmaceuticals on an exclusive basis, as is normal market practice.”

4. Easier Maybe, But Certainly Not Free!:

The UK is 'on the verge of a revolution to make parking easier', according to a government announcement.
Michael Ellis, the future of mobility minister, said new national parking data standards could mean the end of outdated systems. It would identify available parking spaces, permitted times and prices in simple formats that Apps can use throughout the country. The age of the payment parking machine could be coming to an end, he said.


The Government’s ambition was for all parking data released by local councils and companies across the country to use the same language. Standardised data could lead to smoother and easier payment methods and transform the way motorists park, just as the Oyster card transformed travel in London. The announcement follows the publication of the Government’s Future of mobility: urban strategy.


Mr Ellis said: “We are on the brink of a revolution for the future of transport, with ground-breaking technologies creating huge opportunities for cleaner, cheaper, safer and more reliable journeys. We now need to ensure the infrastructure surrounding these technologies is in place and can accommodate these innovations. The new parking data standards will bring Government, private organisations and technologies together to ensure a smoother parking experience for drivers.”


Readers will have to forgive me, but I am afraid that my ingrained cynicism, around whatever any government body comes out with, had me shaking my head in disbelief at this one. Ours is a government which has failed miserably to provide adequate and reliable national public transport systems. It is one which goes blindly on, piling an infinite quantity of vehicles on to a finite quantity of roadways, causing ever slower-moving traffic and obstructive and dangerous parking all over the place. While it may soon be possible for an enforcement officer, anywhere in the UK, to check, by App of course, whether a particular parking space has been paid for, again via an App, I wonder if they have ever given a thought to the need to change current highways and parking area laws, or the fun and games involved whenever a driver might wish to contest an allegedly unpaid parking space allegation? Somehow, I doubt it!

5. Serious Organised Crime:

The UK needs £2.7bn to tackle the “chronic and corrosive” blight of organised crime, the National Crime Agency has warned. Launching its National Strategic Assessment at the beginning of June, the agency said that there are 181,000 offenders linked to organised crime in the UK – a group twice the size of the British Army.


To tackle this threat there must be investment of £2.7bn over the next three years to crack down on those who profit from crimes such as child sexual exploitation and drug trafficking and fraud, according to NCA director general Lynne Owens. She said: “Serious and organised crime in the UK is chronic and corrosive, its scale is truly staggering. It kills more people every year than terrorism, war and natural disasters combined. SOC affects more UK citizens, more frequently than any other national security threat. And it costs the UK at least £37bn a year – equivalent to nearly £2000 per family.”


The NCA report warned that traditional perceptions of the organised crime groups are becoming “old-fashioned” with more dynamic groups of younger offenders using technology to carry out crimes. “Professional enablers such as accountants, solicitors and those working in financial services are increasingly facilitating crimes with their expertise,” the agency said.


The annual assessment showed that financial losses from fraud soared by 32% between April and September 2018 and there were 3.6 million incidents of fraud reported in England and Wales in 2018. The report also said that the number of victims of modern slavery have increased more than 80% since 2016.


John Apter, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “It is unacceptable that when funding is needed, policing goes to the chancellor with a begging bowl and receives nothing more than his loose change, and then we are asked to be grateful. Now is the time to sit up, listen and act – and give the police, and other UK law enforcement agencies, the funding and support they desperately need.”


In response to the comments above, Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “Our Serious and Organised Crime Strategy published in
November 2018 set out how we will mobilise the full force of the state to target and disrupt serious and organised crime. “As criminals’ use of technology evolves so must our response. We continue to invest in the right capabilities and tools in law enforcement, across government and in partnerships with the private sector.”


From that all too typically meaningless Ministerial reply, I believe readers may take it that our police forces will get little or no additional cash, there will still be little or no uniformed police presence on our streets and our hard-working police officers of all units and levels will continue to struggle to attempt to keep you and I safe from these well-organised predators. Did I hear someone murmur, “Come back Robert Peel?”

6. Fighting Back Against Serious Organised Crime:

As the author of this newsletter, I would hate readers to believe that the bad guys and girls are winning, or even having an easy time, because that is not so. They are however, persistent and audacious, as well as violent on occasions. You and I and the agencies working on our behalf all belong to one team, because Fraud is a blight on all areas of the public sector. The government estimates that between £31bn and £49bn of taxpayers’ money is lost to fraud and error each year. This figure goes beyond benefits cheats and tax evasion – it occurs at all levels and impacts adversely across all government services. This is clearly unacceptable, when public services are already operating with reduced resources and restricted budgets. It is essential that every penny in the public purse is put into delivering betterment for UK citizens, not the criminals at any level. The annual Government Counter Fraud Awards represents an opportunity to learn from the successes of others and develop a community of practice in the counter fraud profession. From busting UK crime lords to getting inside the heads of potential fraudsters, this year’s winners were examples of the resourcefulness and creativity that exists within the public sector. Here are just a few of those examples:-


1) HMRC: innovative approach to sanctions and redress:
Operation Octopod had all the makings of a prime-time crime drama. Using a mix of skills, the HMRC team uncovered fraudulent goings-on in one of the UK’s most prominent crime families. The investigation brought to light the activities of a network headed by Tommy and Micky Adams. During an investigation into an unsolved murder, it became clear that senior members of the family were laundering money. Sentences were in excess of 45 years.


2) NHS Scotland: counter fraud team of the year:
This team of six used behavioural psychology to nudge people towards better decisions, driving down instances of fraud and error in Scottish health services and saving £740,000. Initiatives included informing individuals claiming exemptions for dental treatment that their information would be subject to verification. Amplifying the likelihood of discovery deterred potential fraudsters and resulted in a 10% decrease in the number of exemption claims from the previous year.


3) The Charity Commission for England and Wales: outstanding international collaboration:
The Charity Commission for England and Wales ran a joint worldwide campaign with the Fraud Advisory Panel to mark the Charity Fraud Awareness Week 2018. The campaign brought together international partners stretching as far as the US, Australia and New Zealand to promote fraud awareness and share good practice in tackling fraud and financial crime. Using a mixture of events, free online resources and social media, the campaign reached influencers across the sector and the world, with half of all US states participating.


4) HMRC: excellence in fraud prevention:
Alcohol fraud costs the UK government an estimated £1.3bn every year. Goods are bought and sold through complex networks of international businesses and can often move between several countries before being diverted to the UK. That’s why a team in HMRC launched the Tackling Alcohol Fraud at Source education campaign. It focused on brands of beer and wine featuring regularly in seizures. These were traced to market-leading producers, which were then shown how to improve supply chain integrity to reduce supply to the illicit market. A new tool was also created to show producers the big picture around illicit alcohol movements, allowing them to understand the importance of managing supply chains.

7. We Could Have Told Them That:

For some several years, us councillors, as well as other Council Tax (Community Charge) payers have been shouting out loudly that the system is iniquitous, in so far as it measures property values, not incomes, which provide the ability or inability to pay. Finally, the Institute of Fiscal Studies has caught up with reality and declared that Council Tax hits the poorest residents much harder than it does the wealthiest.


A new analysis of the impact of tax and benefits on income inequality has revealed that, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the poorest tenth of the population pay 8% of their income in council tax. This is a much higher percentage than the next 50% pay (4-5%) and is more than double what the richest 40% pay (2-3%).


Although I approve of the recent report, I doubt that those up there, the decision-makers, are likely to take much, if any, notice of it.

8. We Could Have Told Them That Too:

In his report published in the International Public Finance Magazine, dated 30th May, Gavin O’Toole, set out that within an index list of nations responsible for it, the UK is at heart of global tax avoidance.


The report sets out that this evil practice is achieved by the UK – and other – governments listed, knowingly and deliberately providing Tax Havens designed to attract companies engaged in cross-border trade by providing them with rock-bottom corporate taxation rates which are destroying the century-old global corporate tax system. Research behind the launch of a new ‘corporate tax haven index’ says 40% of cross-border direct investments reported by the IMF, worth $18 trillion, are being registered in just 10 countries.


The Tax Justice Network’s report lays the blame for the damage this is causing to government revenues across the world squarely on the UK and its “controlled network of satellite jurisdictions” as well as a handful of other OECD states. “The hypocrisy revealed by the corporate tax haven index is sickening,” said Alex Cobham, the network’s chief executive. “A handful of the richest countries have waged a world tax war so corrosive, they’ve broken down the global corporate tax system beyond repair.
“The UK, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg – the ‘axis of avoidance’ – line their own pockets at the expense of a crucial funding stream for sustainable human progress.”


The corporate tax haven index, published on Tuesday, 28th May, indicates that just a few countries have aggressively undermined the ability of governments across the world to tax multinational corporations properly by offering corporate tax rates of 3% or less. The Tax Justice Network says this is at the root of the $500bn in corporate tax dodged each year globally by multinationals. Moreover, it places the lion’s share of responsibility on the UK, which has effectively outsourced corporate tax avoidance to a “spider’s web” of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.


The first such study of this scope, the corporate tax haven index, ranks countries by their complicity in “havenry” based on scores reflecting the degree to which they enable tax avoidance. It lists the top ten offenders as :
The Virgin Islands, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands – all British territories – as well as Jersey, a British Dependency; The Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Singapore, the Bahamas and Hong Kong.


These jurisdictions alone are responsible for more than half (52%) of the world’s corporate tax avoidance risks, the index indicates. In their competition to woo multinational corporations, they have triggered a “race to the bottom” across the globe that will further deplete tax revenues, says the Tax Justice Network. Cobham added: “The ability of governments across the world to tax multinational corporations in order to pay teachers’ wages, build hospitals and ensure a level playing field for local businesses has been deliberately and ruthlessly undermined. When our laws for taxing global corporations stop working, the global economy stops working for the vast majority of us.”


This is, of course, not accidental. It is all part of the over-arching control of much of global trading activity by The Financial Overlords of the World, who quietly buy and sell influence for their own benefit, which is steadily widening the gap between the very wealthy 1% and the ordinary working person, wherever.


To my mind, it is abhorrent that revenues which should be earned by governments for the development of infrastructure and the provision of essential services, wherever, are being encouraged to “escape” into the status of “profits” and “shares dividends” for the already wealthy. Especially perhaps here in the UK, where central government is steadfastly sticking to its “Austerity” claims, denying funds to Local Authorities and deeply picking the pockets of poorer citizens, day by day, while letting a dozen and one Mega-national corporations simply avoid paying their rightful tax dues.

9. Speaking of Services….:

On the 24th May, the North Wales Community Health Council issued a Press Release, reading as follows:

NORTH WALES HEALTH WATCHDOG – LESSONS LEARNT REVIEW BETSI CADWALADR UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD
The North Wales Community Health Council (NWCHC), the independent health watchdog for North Wales, has reacted to a report published today by the Welsh Governments Public Comments Committee (PAC) which highlights slow progress with improvements to some health services in North Wales, despite the health board being placed under special measures since 2015.
Geoff Ryall- Harvey, Chief Officer of the NWCHC said ‘The NWCHC has played a significant part in this review, with senior figures of our organisation having attended the Senedd to provide verbal and written evidence. We have also supported a number of the Tawel Fan families to provide their evidence to the Committee.’


‘We totally agree with the recommendations made within the PAC report. The call for additional help for the health board is something that the North Wales Community Health Council has been asking for, for some years.’
‘In March of last year, we wrote to Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, to reflect the real growing concerns of the NWCHC that the Health Board was yet to emerge from its period in Special Measures. In that letter we said that ‘There is a belief amongst NWCHC members that Special Measures is now the ‘new normal’ for the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board. As a result, the phrase “Special Measures” appears to have lost its impact. We are not the only people who believe this. Our members’ extensive contact with the public during our widespread public engagement sessions confirmed that there is lack of public confidence in the current health board being able to deliver the healthcare that the public in North Wales expects. The new Chair of the health board and board members face the challenge of rebuilding public confidence as a key part of emerging from Special Measures. North Wales Community Health Council will continue to work with them to achieve this by reflecting the views and experiences of patients.’


John Stewart, a member of the Tawel Fan families group who continues to receive support from the NWCHC said ‘This report is highly critical of the Health Board and a lot of what the NWCHC has said has been referenced within the report and accepted. The Tawel Fan families who took part in the PAC review are pleased that they had the opportunity to have sight of the report before it was released publicly.’ Mr Stewart went on to say, ‘The families involved in the maternity failings in South Wales spring to mind this morning – I hope that the lessons learnt within the report (including the lesson of sharing a report with those affected prior to its public release) will spare families the anger and emotional duress that many of us experienced on the day that the HASCAS report was released last year. We just hope that Welsh Government and the Health Board act upon and implement the recommendations made.’


Geoff Ryall- Harvey went on to say, “At a time of uncertainty for the future of Community Health Councils in Wales, the comments of the Tawel Fan families regarding the South Wales maternity review are both timely and extremely important. The Community Health Councils movement in Wales cannot allow these experiences to be repeated.”


To Geoff Ryall-Harvey’s concerns I would add one of my own, which is that glaring failures within our NHS give reasons for the likes of Donald Trump to claim, “Your British NHS needs Privatisation!” No Way!!!

10. Keeping Pennies In Your Pockets:

I do try to come up with items which might protect you from Serious Organised Crime Gangs, by warning of their Scams. I also keep a look-out for opportunities to steer you towards possible savings in essential expenditure, such as domestic bills from the utilities.


An organisation called LEAP, standing for Local Energy Advice Partnership now exists. If any reader fits into one of the following categories:-
* Have a low income.
* Receive Tax Credits
* Receive Housing Benefit
* Receive any Income or Disability-Related Benefit
* Suffers from a Long-term Illness or Disability


Then you are entitled to a FREE home visit from a very friendly, very qualified Home Energy Advisor.
You can make contact with the LEAP team via a freephone number 0800 060 7567, or, if you are computer equipped, by applying on-line at www.applyforleap.or.uk.


My wife and I sat in on one of their presentations in Wrexham not long ago. It was factual, practical and down to earth. So, if you do qualify, please go for it. You have nothing to lose by doing so.

11. Keeping You Living Independently:

Life, existence, call it what you will, often decides to victimise the innocent, of all and any age. Disabilities, minor and major, crop up, from before birth, right through to whenever we finally stop breathing.


Fortunately, as the years have gone by, science and technology have progressed to the stage where, with a little bit of help from a friend as they say, those with most disabilities can now be assisted to enable them to remain living independently if that is their wish.


The Centre of Independent Living, based in Mold at the Flintshire Disability Forum’s premises at the Old Town Hall, Earl road, Mold, CH7 1AB, has been providing Disability Services to residents of Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire, for more than 20 years. It is an independent charity, with drop-in sessions at their premises Monday to Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and Wednesday to 3:00p.m. No need for any appointment, just call in. The friendly staff will assist you with advice, information and advocacy and if needed, will guide benefit applicants all the way through their benefit- application process, from form filling to tribunals. They run a befriending service, make contact telephone calls and have social groups operating all around and throughout Flintshire.


If you have a disability and are struggling to stay independent and at home, give them a call on 01352 756618.

12. What About Flintshire Then?:

1) A little bit Betwixt and Between?:
Many readers may have missed out on noticing that several of the county’s departments have shifted location from Mold to Ewloe, to occupy the building commonly known as Unity House, which Unilever rented from FCC for some years. All part, so we councillors have been informed, of a compelling Business Case for a total move from Mold to Ewloe, to permit the old Mold Campus Buildings to be demolished and the entire property sold for development. The only problem being that upon asking, I have been informed that it is unlikely that the CEO’s offices, Cabinet offices, Members’ Services rooms, political group rooms and canteen will be moving for another couple of years or more, because there is presently neither the shape nor volume of accommodation available for those facilities at Ewloe.


The move should not create any great difficulty for residents in general, as the phone numbers are not changing, nor of course the systems for digital contact, which the county council is very keen on. It will also not affect the Connects Offices, of which we have one locally, in the Buckley Library.


2) A Case of “The Best Laid Plans…..?:
I spent the afternoon of Thursday 30th May at a well-attended Members’ workshop at County Hall in Mold. It was supposed to have been 4 hours of listening to our assorted officers explaining how the Council Plan 2019-2023, with its In-year Priorities for 2019/20 would be implemented. It ended up as a little over 3 hours of the Chief Executive demonstrating that he is very good at thinking on his feet and going away to get together with other officers to do a bit of a re-think. That is because Cllr. Richard Jones and I had both, individually, bothered to re-read the Original, Over-arching Plan for 2018 to 2023, then the 30 or so pages of the Priorities for 2018/19 and compare them with the 30 or so pages of the Priorities for 2019/20.


In our separate styles and words, we both pointed out a glaring lack of continuity and connectivity between the indicated activities for the years involved, along with an apparent underlying lack of departmental service plans, supported by budget allocations. We were supported by Cllr. David Mackie, another member of our Independent Alliance Group, who had also done his homework and agreed with us.


That rather blew the officers’ carefully prepared pattern of the running of the workshop, which converted itself into a genuinely lively discussion session, resulting in an eventual agreement, all around, of the need for a bit of a re-think among officers and Cabinet Members, with a revised plan to be presented to councillors in the near future.


3) The County’s New “My Account” System:
For those of you who are IT equipped, by way of a home computer, Lap-top computer, I-pad, smart phone, or whatever, you can now go to www.flintshire.gov.uk/My-Account where you can, if you wish, log on, sign in and create your very own safe, secure and personalised area on the county website. Within that you can pay bills on-line, check information, ask questions and so forth. If you do not have your own IT equipment, one way or another, you can take yourself in to the Flintshire Connects facility at the Buckley Library, where the helpful staff will be able to guide you through the registration process. It is all part of the county council’s effort to put services of all kinds, “at your fingertips,” if that is the way you wish to engage with them.
Good luck with that if you try it. Perhaps it may work better than trying a telephone call and ending up hanging on for ages, about which I and other councillors have regularly complained in recent weeks.


4) How Come Community Charge is So High This Year?:
That is the question I keep getting asked. It refers of course to the 8.6% hike that the Labour Party imposed upon Flintshire for 2019-20 financial year. Partly, the entire issue goes back to my main item 7 above. While everyone agrees that the entire arrangement is unjust and iniquitous, our decision-makes down in Cardiff, the Labour Party again, appear content to do nothing to make the system fairer. Adding insult to injury, some 18 months ago, that body chose to lift the cap of a 5% annual increase, which they had imposed upon county councils for some years. That removal was because they could see that with the burden of additional duties imposed upon local authorities; such as in the Welfare of Future Generations Act and the change in the education system from Special Education Needs (SEN) to Additional Learning Needs (ALN), along with the WAG’s lack of provision for funding those burdens, there was going to be a need for local authorities to increase Community Charge levels like never before; in order to meet their legal obligation to produce a balanced budget each year. All I can tell you is that if you feel this year’s Community Charge hike was painful, beware of what might well appear next year.

11. What About Buckley Then?:

To keep readers current, without boring you, the following few sub-headings and brief comments will suffice:-

1) De-pedestrianisation of the presently pedestrianised part of the town centre.
On this one, there has been no change since my December 2018 newsletter, when I set out that your town councillors are still awaiting firm and detailed proposals to appear from county council level, which town councillors asked for way back in September of last year, but which have so far not appeared.


2) The Buckley Shopping Centre, alias The Precinct, as was.
At the beginning of 2019, when your town council was trying to plan for this year’s Annual Fun Day, permission was sought from the Agents, for certain activities to be housed within the Precinct. We were advised that such could not be provided as negotiations were ongoing for the purchase of the Precinct. Whoever the interested party was and what their plans for the facility might have been, remained unknown to us, due to commercial confidentiality. More recently, with the Fun Day behind us and as I compile this in the first week of June, we have now learned that the potential buyer has stepped back from the purchase negotiations. So, as we were some six or more months ago: the Precinct is still “Up for Sale,” with a price-tag at £3million or so.


3) The Town Development Plan.
For those who can recall it, in 2016, a formal Buckley Town Development Plan was outlined by independent and external consultants. To say that discussion and implementation of that became lost somewhere along the way, mainly through lack of potential funding, would be something of an understatement. However, your town councillors are meeting with representatives of FCC Cabinet and Officers, on the evening of Tuesday 18th June, for a discussion about just what can, or cannot be done to actually do something to stop the decline of smaller retail outlets and modernise the town centre so as to make it more attractive for residents and sustainably profitable for traders. Fingers crossed for some positive outcomes from that starting point.


4) One Modest Victory.
It has taken far too long, since the old post office closed, with a great deal of documentary argy-bargy, between Town Council, Royal Mail and Flintshire’s Planning and Building Control sections; along with some recent additional pushing from Mark Edwards, our local Streetscene Officer, but as I compile this newsletter in the first week in June, the Royal Mail Organisation has finally put in place a Stand-Alone Post Box in front of the Spar Shop on our pedestrianised area. It was formally “commissioned” on Monday, 3rd June, so it is now there and open for use by one and all, much to the relief of the staff of the post office facility at the back of the Spar Store.

5) The Old Buckley Baths Building.
The latest from the Trustees is that they have recently had a sit-down session with representatives from Cadwyn Clwyd. It appears that that meeting was fruitful in so far as that organisation has agreed to provide a five-figure sum, which will enable the Trustees, with support from Cadwyn Clwyd, to select and engage a qualified consultant as a starting-point for the setting out of a feasibility study, aimed towards proving a viable business case for the eventual conversion of the Old Buckley Baths Building into a multi-functional Community Hall. It would appear to me that there is still a long way to go, but, with a positive feasibility study on record and a soundly based Business Case to hand, the obtaining of charitable status should be more likely. With Business Case and Charitable Status to hand, the raising of the necessary funds for the conversion work becomes more likely.
Has the time come for a “Friends of the Old Buckley Baths” group to appear in order to support and encourage the Trustees? Anyone feeling interested might care to have a conversation with Cllr. Mike Peers, whose contact details are on both town and county websites.


6) Grwp Cnefyn and the 24 Maisonettes by the Library.
The maisonettes are now shaping up nicely. Finishing touches are
now being made and occupation is expected to commence in a few weeks. We can only hope that some of the allocations go to Buckley people.


7) Outline Plans for an Assisted Living Facility plus 14 Bungalows:
Outline planning permission is being sought, via an application to FCC, for a 70 to 90 bed assisted living facility, along with 14 Bungalows, similar to those of Jubilee Court. The main building is planned to be sited on the land in between Home Bargains and Manor Drive, with the bungalows on the spit of land bounded by Home Bargains, Precinct Way and Jubilee Road. Ward residents closest to the proposed development and the Tivoli Nightclub are, quite reasonably, somewhat concerned over the magnitude of the proposals, particularly the decidedly overpowering height of the proposed main building and worried over the adequacy of car parking provisions for staff and visitors.


Against that view, there are many who do not live within sight of the proposals who are positively dancing with delight at the prospect of such a facility in the middle of Buckley, given the high approval ratings for similar facilities already existing in Mold, Flint and Shotton.


Whichever side you come from on this outline planning application it is clear the decision will be dictated purely by and within Current Planning Rules & Regulations, simply because, if our planning officers and the Planning
Committee, do not, fully and impartially, apply those and perhaps turn down the application on grounds of local public opinion, the applicant will swiftly take the appeal route. That, if there is any breach of, or failure of county council officers and/or members on the committee, to properly apply the current rules and regulations in coming to their decision, will be bound to result in any appeal being upheld, with costs most likely awarded against your county council.


8) Marleyfield’s Proposed 32 Additional Bedrooms:
For those of you who do still read The Leader newspaper, on-line or via hard copy, you will be aware already of the recent press release from county council, indicating that this local authority controlled residential rest home, which has an excellent reputation, is now in line to see the additional bedrooms which were talked of many months ago, actually begin to take shape. With our ageing population, additional bedrooms at a well-reputed facility such as Marleyfields Residential Rest Home must be looked upon as a welcome addition to local provision.

12. A Choice Between Corporate Profits or Corporate Honesty?:

That question is a “No-Brainer” as far as I am aware. Read on for the proof!
A ‘major discrepancy’ between official petrol car CO2 emissions and real-life on-road testing has led an independent emissions testing agency to warn of an emerging ‘petrolgate’ scandal. The testing agency, Emissions Analytics has discovered some ‘unusual discrepancies’ during testing of petrol cars, which could suggest some car manufacturing firms are already manipulating strict new WLTP emissions and economy tests.


Official CO2 figures for petrol cars tested by the firm are ‘significantly underestimating the real-world emissions.’ It suggests a 24 percent difference between official CO2 figures and real-world tests.
Four years ago, university researchers uncovered a similar difference when testing diesel Volkswagens, in what was quickly dubbed the ‘dieselgate’ scandal.


Ironically, real-world testing of the latest diesel cars shows they are broadly in line with official CO2 figures.


If you have problems and need a word of advice or support, I am always available, 24 hours of the day and seven days of the week, via my home phone number of 01244 549421. If I am out, please leave a recorded message. I will get back to you as soon as I can. 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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