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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

 

 

1 A Dismal Outlook:

I do not enjoy having to open any of my newsletters to ward residents in terms and tones of gloom and despondency. Far from it! However, once the provisional Revenue Support Funding figures for the 2019-20 Financial Year for all 22 County/County Borough Councils in Wales, appeared in public on 8th October last, it became clear that none of us councillors, across most of North Wales and indeed in many other areas of the country too, are going to enjoy exercising the responsibilities of our publicly elected positions during the coming financial year. That is because what is clearly facing us, as outlined in the table below, is a need to cut, cut, cut services, in order to fulfil our legal duty to approve a financially balanced Annual Budget.

 

Budget

 

I do apologise for the small size of the print, but the shrinkage was needed for completeness of the table. From that table, you can see for yourselves that, once again, your county is in the least financially supported group, all 18th equal, comprising Flintshire, Anglesey, Conwy, Powys and Monmouthshire. Gwynedd at 17th is only marginally above that level, although Denbighshire, ranking 11th will suffer slightly less of a cut at -0.5% against our -1.0% cut.


In trying to best inform readers, in understandable terms, what has created our problem, I need to set out that with inflation at around 2.4% and our county population growing somewhere around 0.6% annually, Flintshire clearly needed an increase in Revenue Support Grant of +3.0%, just to stand still as it were. In round figures, if we take revenue expenditure lately as close to £300million per annum, your county needed a £9million uplift just to keep on providing the level of services we now deliver in this 2018-19 financial year.


The provisional figure of -1.0% equates to a shrinkage in funding of at least £3million, widening the gap to a need of something of the order of £12million just to maintain the level of services the county delivered this year.


That would have been bad enough, but, the Wales Government, by its own enactments, has further burdened local authorities with additional duties in relation to Social Care & Welfare, probably resulting in another couple of million in staff, training and delivery costs.


Put that lot together and a budget gap of at least £14million is reasonable to predict. Then refer to the legal responsibility us councillors have, which is to deliver a balanced budget, year by year, come what may!


If that “provisional” figure of a -1.0% Revenue Support Grant for 2019-20 is not improved when the final provision figures appear in December, all I can see is a level of percentage increase in the annual Community Charge which will cause pain in the pocket of the average householder, alongside serious cuts in services to the public. If the WAG fails to provide some uplift come December, both of those undesirable steps will become a necessity, which is why I am not a very happy councillor as I sit compiling this latest newsletter. Unfortunately, that sense of gloom is not relieved in any way after reading the report which forms the substance of the item following this one.

 

2. Do They Think We Have Not Noticed?:

CIPFA, which is the Chartered Institute for Public Finance, backed an analytical report compiled by Dominic Brady and published on 12th October last. In that report, the author made it clear that the UK Government is increasingly shifting the costs of public services on to citizens as the effects of austerity continue. The report sets out that not only Central Government, but local authorities as well, are passing the costs of services, such as legal aid and garden waste collection, on to individuals. Both this year’s Performance Tracker from CIPFA and the Institute for Government, which is a think-tank have noted that trend. Rob Whiteman, chief executive of CIPFA, said: “Organisations have had no choice but to shift the costs on to individuals to be able to continue to provide vital services, such as adult social care. This will become increasingly common.”


Emily Andrews, associate director at the IfG, suggested: “One way the government has tried to save money and avoid the need for tax increases is by asking members of the public to contribute more in other ways - from volunteers running libraries to people paying a greater share of the cost of defending themselves in court.”


The number of authorities charging for garden waste collection rose from 88 to 199 between 2010-11 and 2017-18, while the number offering free garden waste collection fell from 236 to 137, the report showed. Cuts to legal aid, the report said, mean that more defendants now have to pay for their own defence or defend themselves in criminal trials. Criminal legal aid spending fell by 32.1% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2017-18, from £1,175m to £891m in 2017-18.


The tracker report gave a ‘concern’ rating to a range of public services, saying those with the greatest issues were prisons, adult social care and neighbourhood services. “There are clear signs that neither prisons nor adult social care can continue to operate at their current level of efficiency,” the report said. “Any attempt to try to maintain or increase the level of output without increasing spending is likely to lead to a further deterioration in service quality.” Prisons, despite getting more money from the 2016 Autumn budget, still received 16% less funding than in 2009-10, the tracker noted.


The report said that neighbourhood services - such as waste collection, food safety, road maintenance and libraries - have sustained the deepest spending cuts of all the services looked at. It was “impossible to say whether local authorities can keep operating them at their current level of efficiency”.


Public satisfaction with neighbourhood services fell between September 2012 and June 2018, with satisfaction in waste collection dropping by 6%, libraries by 7% and road maintenance by 14%, according to the report. Adult social care spending in England has fallen by 3% since 2009-10 “even though demographic change would suggest that demand is increasing,” the report said. Police services have also been cut, with net expenditure on police services in England and Wales falling by around 18% in real terms since 2009- Whiteman said that if the government were to meet communities’ expectations for public services they must come up with a new sustainable funding model that would require “bolder, braver and perhaps politically-unpopular decisions”. The report did find that public services had become more efficient since 2010, which was mainly due to the pay cap on annual public sector wage rises.


CIPFA and the IfG appealed to government to be open with the public about the challenges for public services going forward. Gemma Tetlow, chief economist at the IfG, said: “The prime minister and chancellor must start making explicit the realities facing the country about what public services cost and how that money can be raised. “They need to begin telling people clearly that they face a national choice.”

 


3. A View From the Outside:

The UK’s public finances are among the weakest in the world after the 2008 financial crash, behind Gambia, Uganda and Kenya, an IMF assessment of assets and liabilities has revealed.


The global fiscal monitor, published early in October, found that almost £1 trillion had been wiped off the wealth of the UK’s public sector since the financial crisis, putting it in the second weakest position of the 31 nations assessed. Only Portugal’s public finances were in a worse state. The decline is equivalent to 50 percentage points of GDP since 2008.
The IMF calculated that the bailout of UK banks, such as the £45.5bn injection of government cash into the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the growth of Britain’s public sector pension liabilities were significant factors in the UK’s ranking. Since the crisis, this has racked up significant debts, despite the government’s austerity measures, it added.


Presenting the fiscal findings at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Bali yesterday, Vitor Gaspar, the director of IMF’s fiscal affairs department, said the UK government’s bail out of banks had led to their reclassification as ‘public sector’. “As a result, public sector liabilities increased by more than 200% of GDP between 2007 and 2009, from 126% of GDP to 335% of GDP”. However, assets also increased - public debt ratios increased because of the previously mentioned interventions but also because of reductions in output. On balance, there was a significant deterioration in public sector net worth,” he said.


The findings also revealed that the UK government has less than £3 trn in assets and £5 trn of liabilities, revealing a negative net worth of more than £2 trn. This was attributed to the sell-off of public assets in the 1980s and 1990s by the then Conservative government. The Washington-based lender assessed the assets and liabilities – the balance sheet - of the 31 countries - which cover 61% of global GDP, with the total assets worth $101 trillion, or 219% of GDP - rather than just looking at the countries’ debt and deficit. It also considered the benefit of assets such as publicly owned corporations and natural resources.


Using this approach, countries such as Gambia, Uganda and Kenya rank above the UK because they have higher net wealth relative to GDP, despite their smaller assets and liabilities. At the top of the rankings was Norway, with the most secure public finances because of its oil wealth. Russia, Kazakhstan and Australia followed in the rankings.

 

4. Not Always Wrong:

I do believe that regular readers of these newsletters will have quite rightly formed the opinion that I am not a loyal, dedicated and unquestioning supporter of the National Assembly. Particularly at a time when that body is arguing to increase membership from the present 60 up to 90, while at the same time delivering nothing but funding cuts to county councils. However, as an Independent, I am quite happy to support and approve of them when they do get something right, which they do recently seem to have done over the issue of Fracking, etc.


In a recent policy statement, The Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths, set out her preferred policy in July, that the Welsh Government would not support any applications for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” consents, or undertake any new petroleum licensing in Wales. Within the same area of commercial activity, a consultation has since been held on petroleum extraction activities. That consultation closed on 25 September. The consultation received more than 1,800 responses. The Welsh Government will now consider the feedback to the consultation before confirming its future policy by the end of the year.
Of direct interest to ordinary residents is the fact that the Welsh Government has put a Notification Direction in place, so that local authorities cannot approve planning applications for unconventional oil and gas exploration or extraction, including fracking, without Welsh Ministers’ approval. This supports the Welsh Government’s opposition to unconventional extraction. In a very sensible step, the Welsh Government has been working with the UK Government and the UK Oil & Gas Authority to ensure a smooth transfer of legislative powers which are necessary to give the Assembly control over these types of licenses.

 

In dealing with the matter, Lesley Griffiths said, “Burning fossil fuels is the number one contributor to global warming and there is overwhelming scientific evidence which shows how climate change is damaging our planet. Instead of exploring new ways to extract fossil fuels, we should be investing in renewable forms of energy.” The Cabinet Secretary continued, “As a Government, we must responsibly manage our natural resources in a way that meets the needs of the people of Wales, not just today, but into the future. “I would like to thank everyone who provided their feedback to the consultation and I expect to announce the Welsh Government’s policy by the end of the year.”

 

 

5. Not Always Right:

A recent report from the urban planning think-tank, Centre for Cities, admittedly concentrating on the Midlands and North of England, has warned that people in these areas are ill-prepared for the “Rise of the Robots.”
The report warns that automation and globalisation are transforming the basket of skills needed to thrive in the future workplace, but people of all working ages in the areas indicated are losing out for lack of appropriate input. The report sets out that interpersonal and analytical skills such as negotiation and critical thinking will be of increasing importance for future workers. Against that need, the researchers state a finding that there are great discrepancies in the provision of “robot-ready” skills across the country.


The Group argues that every city should establish a “skills compact,” bringing together policy-makers, education providers and businesses, to collectively improve education and training at all levels. It also argues that it is central government which should provide more powers over spending on education and training, to help them meet the skills needs of their residents, businesses and economies.


Centre for Cities chief executive, Andrew Carter said, “Automation and globalisation are transforming the world of work, yet too many people across the country aren’t gaining the skills they need to thrive in the future. Urgent and concerted action is needed to address these issues and to develop an education system which is fit for the future at all levels.”


As a school governor and someone who is highly concerned about Wales being bottom of the UK’s educational heap, I am left wondering just where the Wales Government is taking students in Wales and how well it is preparing them for the highly competitive world of future employment. For readers who do not yet know it, there is a massive change afoot for education in Wales. With automation and roboticization rapidly replacing employees across the entire field of business and industry, new skills will be needed.

 

At a workshop I attended on 15th October, I listened to representatives of GWe, explaining that a totally new education “Curriculum for Wales” is to be introduced over the next few years, which is intended to radically change the way in which teaching is delivered in Schools in Wales. By Easter of 2019 it will appear in outline/draft form, with a consultation period ahead. By the end of 2019, more detailed proposals will appear, so that change towards the new system can commence in 2020, with the intention of being totally embedded by 2022. Necessary legislation will progress through the Welsh Assembly as required in order to facilitate the proposed changes. I would urge all parents of students now in, or likely to enter their school years shortly, to be aware of what is coming down the line.


In terms of what was presented to the few county councillors who bothered to attend the workshop, education in Wales is going to be turned inside out and upside down. The existing vertical accountability system will be replaced by a more horizontal accountability system, intended to produce a “Self-Improving Schools System.”
That system sets out as its purposes as being to ensure that children and young people develop as:-


1. Ambitious, Capable Learners, ready to learn throughout their lives.
2. Ethical, Informed Citizens, ready to be citizens of Wales and the world.
3. Enterprising Capable Contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work.
4. Healthy, Confident Individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
There was also a lot presented on a proposed new system of providing for those 23% of students currently requiring “Statements” due to Additional Learning Needs (ALN), by which Statements will vanish, to be replaced by “Individual Learning Needs Assessments” leading to “Individual Development Plans”.


With an educational system currently short of funds, short of qualified teachers, facing demands to function better, those of us at the workshop, by the theme of our general line of questioning, all had serious concerns over training, resourcing and applying the proposed new “Curriculum For Wales” once its finalised form is presented to the teaching professionals, the students and the parents.

 

6. Watch Out – There’s Snow About:

At the beginning of October, amid the unseasonal burst of warm weather which brought Storm Callum to us, a resident challenged county council about what plans exist to clear winter snows, ice and frosts from roads, estates and pavements. The Cabinet Member for Streetscene, Cllr. Carolyn Thomas replied with the following explanation, which I set out here so that all of you may read and understand it for yourselves, in case we do get any bursts of genuine winter weather in coming months, “The County Council treats all roads and pavements on a priority basis, based on the resources available. Clearly the main road network receives the highest priority, with the classified network being treated in the first instance and other roads, including housing estate roads, being treated when resources become available. Footways are also prioritised, with footways outside of schools, hospitals, vulnerable resident housing locations, medical centres and shopping areas given priority, but it is unlikely that resources will permit housing estate footways to be treated, particularly if they are relatively flat and level. The Council will support local community groups, if they wish to take on the challenge of snow clearing work in particularly bad weather, this support includes providing helpful advice on liability and the provision of basic equipment to carry out snow clearance work on footways.


The Council also provides salt bins for use on the public highway in prolonged periods of snow or ice, on routes with steep inclines.
Any specific roads or footways of concern can be reviewed following notification to the local Streetscene Coordinator.”
The Streetscene Co-ordinator for our ward is Mark Edwards, who can usually be contacted via 01352 752121. If you have problems getting hold of him in case of need in future months, get hold of me, via one or other of my contact routes and I will do some chasing for you.

 

7. What About Buckley Then?:

The sole remaining bank in Buckley, Lloyds, has announced that it intends to close its branch in the town as of 4th February, 2019, as just one of their latest list of 27 branch closures across the UK.
Apart from that piece of unwanted bad news, there are activities in and around the town which I have reported upon previously, but which are still ongoing. 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 August newsletter, when I set out that your town councillors are still awaiting firm and detailed proposals from county council, which were asked for way back in September of last year.


2) The Buckley Shopping Centre, alias The Precinct, as was.
At date of this newsletter going for printing, 2nd November, 2018, the only information available that I am aware of is that the property is still up for sale, with a price-tag understood to be at £3million.


3) The Old Buckley Baths Building.
The three councillors who are the Directors of the private limited company, set up some five years or so ago, to see through to completion the conversion of the building into a multi-purpose community hall, are still not finding it quick or easy to obtain, from the Charities Commission, the granting of formal registration as a charitable activity. I am advised that much correspondence is flowing and some small progress has been made. However, until that essential charitable status is obtained, little visible progress is likely.


4) The 14 Houses in the area bounded by the Fire Station, Manor Drive, Jubilee Road and the Home Bargains Store.
Edwards Homes are visibly pushing ahead with the construction of the 14 residences as per planning permission granted last year. With a touch of luck, the first occupants will appear before Christmas.


5) Grwp Cnefyn and the 24 Maisonettes by the Library.
The intended maisonettes are now shaping up nicely, work being at roofing level as I write this comment.


6) Leith Developments’ outline planning application for 100 plus houses on Green Barrier land south of Meg’s Lane.
As reported in my August newsletter, this was turned down at FCC’s Planning Committee on 18th July. There is a six-month window for an appeal to be entered. No appeal has appeared yet, but until the end of January, 2019, please keep the celebrations on hold.


7) Skye Developments Detailed Planning Application for 435 houses plus retail outlet, South of Spon Green.
The situation on this one is identical to my comments at 6) above.


8) The Closure of The Factory Shop.
Sadly, recent weeks have seen the closure of this valued retail outlet. That closure was necessitated by the poor, porous state of the roofing and the fact that the first floor of the building was deemed unusable by the local authority a few years back. Discussions are ongoing to attempt to sort out the problems and get the premises re-opened.


9) The Closure of The Pay As You Feel Store.
The sudden closure of the Pay As You Feel Store, situated above the Town Council Offices and Chamber was unfortunate. It should not have happened and certainly should not have happened in the peremptory manner, in which it was; literally at only a day’s notice to the valuable, public-spirited group of volunteers who staffed the store during opening hours and those who volunteered to collect the still-usable consumables made available by several large retails stores in Buckley and the area around and deliver them to the store.


By their public-spirited efforts, they proved there was a real need for the activity in our town. Both my wife Paula and I supported it as best we could. Since its sudden demise, I have been asked, by some of those volunteers and other interested local people if I would be willing to create a not-for-profit Community Interest Organisation to take on the task of re-opening the PAYF store. To do so would be safely within my skills set, but it is the time-burden which concerns me, given that I am presently a School Governor, Chair of Citizens Advice Flintshire, Chair of Flintshire Scouts District Executive Committee, Co-ordinator for Buckley Community Speed Watch Scheme, Vice-chair of Welsh Border Community Transport Scheme, committee member of the Royal British Legion’s Buckley Branch, committee member of the Jubilee Court Senior Citizens’ Association and a Town and County Councillor to boot. However, I shall see what can be done, as soon as is feasible.

 

8. Community Speed Watch – Briefly!
The roadside foul-mouths, keyboard warriors and mindless, lawless trolls who have a go at the team, every time we appear in our efforts to make the roads just that little bit safer, are still with us. Our thanks go to those fair-minded, law-abiding and considerate residents who do go on IT to bother to counter such people. Just recently, on the A5119 at New Brighton, in a single hour in the 30mph zone, we recorded 49 vehicles as speeding for our purposes. Those drivers were at assorted speeds between 35mph and 47mph. Responsible, thoughtful citizens and capable, competent drivers? Hmmm!

 

9. Two “Please Take Note” Items.
In the middle of October, North Wales Police issued a warning of a spate of both day and night time Burglaries in Flintshire and Wrexham counties. These burglars, unscrupulous, callous rapscallions that they are, are deliberately targeting Older People; because Older People are in the habit of distrusting banks and financial houses and keeping lots of lovely cash, jewellery and other valuables at home. Your collection of valuable Faberge Eggs proudly on display on your mantle-shelf, your considerable wad of £50 notes, or the collection of valuable jewellery under your mattress and the bags of £2 coins out of sight in the old copper kettle on the Dresser, are all easy targets for Mr. Burglar.

 

Having your house ransacked is something which takes a lot of recovering from; but losing substantial sums of cash and valuables makes the event a whole lot worse. Please put your valuables safely into your bank account, or a safety deposit box somewhere. Anywhere except your house!


The second item is the matter of the still significant number of individuals who doggedly refuse to make a Will, leaving spouses, families, partners and relatives to battle their way through the complicated, costly and emotionally draining Intestacy rules. If you love them, leave them a Will!

 

10. Emotion Versus Facts – Let’s Talk Brexit.
I found myself shaking my head in sadness and sorrow at the umpteen thousands of emotional and vociferous Remainers who appeared on the streets of London on 20th October, demanding another vote over the Brexit issue, which, for me, was soundly and sensibly decided at the Referendum, two years and more ago.


In the months since 2016, the clamouring voices of Operation Fear’s exponents have risen to a crescendo, casting aside any semblance of belief in Democracy, Nationhood, Sovereignty, or to me, even logic. So kindly allow me to set out a few genuine facts as to why we will be better off OUT of an organisation which we never did vote to join and most likely never would have ventured into, had the truth been told to the British Public way back in 1972-4. I was watching from Central Africa at that time and would, on what I heard, have firmly voted for joining the then EEC, the European Economic Community/Common Market which was how that referendum was badged.
However, having more lately taken time to investigate a whole lot of issues, I am, as all of my readers already know, a dedicated Brexiteer.


1) I have yet to find a single Remainer who has ever read the detailed report produced by Pierre Werner, the then Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Luxembourg, in 1970 and presented to and approved by the then Council and Commission as the guiding route map towards the eventual goal of …“The Realisation by Stages of Economic and Monetary Union in the Community”.
The existence of that telling document was kept hidden from the British Population, in 1972-4, probably because it really is the approved-of roadmap to the eventual United States of Europe, containing as it does, the determined aim of the dissolution of all national parliaments and the transfer of their powers to the Community and Commission level. (My italics!)
Dedicated Europhiles such as Ted Heath and Harold Wilson might have had trouble persuading the then voters of the UK that that particular aim was acceptable.

 

Please don’t just believe or dis-believe me. The report is available on line, to read for yourselves. Do the vociferous Remainers really want the dissolution of our National Parliament in years to come or is it that they are unaware of the EU’s long-term intentions?


2) On the matter of trade, the Remainers keep repeating the canard that the EU is our largest trading partner. One which to walk away from would do the UK great, indeed irrecoverable, financial and industrial harm.

 

While our export trade with the EU represents 44% of our total by one statistical measure, that is purely because that particular measure ignores “The Rotterdam Effect” which counts all of our UK goods arriving in Rotterdam and then being trans-shipped for onwards delivery elsewhere around the world as “Trade with the EU Nations”. Aside from that anomaly, our trade with the EU 27 is cripplingly one-sided as can be seen from the chart above. On the raw data for 2017, the deficit has reached somewhere between £72billion and £85billion, while our trade with the rest of the world gives us a £19billion surplus.


A more accurate picture of our world-wide trade, again using latest data I can find, shows:
EU 28 Nations = 16%
China = 15%
USA = 11%
Japan = 5%
South Korea = 3.9%
Russia = 3.7%
The Commonwealth= 16%
Others = 29%
Total = 100%

 

3) Remainers wail and rail about hundreds of factories closing and the demise of thousands of jobs if we leave the EU. They appear blind to, or unknowing of the serious damage which membership of the EU has already done to our manufacturing sector, through the EU’s sworn policy of equalizing economic activity across all member states. Below are several of the many on the full list.


Cadbury’s moved production to Poland in 2011 with EU Grant support.
Ford Transit moved production to Turkey in 2013 with EU Grant support.
Peugeot closed its Ryton (Roots Group) plant and moved production to Slovakia, with an EU Grant.
ICI integrated into Holland’s AkzoNobel Group, with a substantial European Investment Bank loan on favourable terms, resulting in the rapid closure of several of their UK factories and the loss of 3,500 manufacturing jobs.
Crown Closures Bournemouth, once Metal Box, took production off to Poland, with EU Grant support, with the loss of 1,200 jobs.

Texas Instruments Greenock, gone to Germany, with an EU Grant.
Hoover’s Merthyr Tydfil’s factory, moved out of Wales to re-locate to the Czech Republic, with EU Grant backing.


When the UK joined the EU we had a 45 million tonnes a year steel industry. Today we are battling to save an 11 million tonnes industry. When we joined the EU we had a 400,000 tonnes a year aluminium industry. Today we have just 43,000 tonnes of capacity left. When we joined the EU we had 20 million tonnes of cement capacity. Today we have 12 million tonnes.
Just before we joined the EEC in 1973 we had a 1 million tonnes a year fishing industry. Today we have 600,000 tonnes. The October 2013 government “Future of Manufacturing” Report shows that between 1951 and 1973 metals output rose 3% a year. Since joining the EEC/EU it has declined by more than 6%. Between 1951 and 1973 food and drink output rose by 5.6% per year. Since joining the EEC/EU it has fallen by 1% a year. Between 1951 and 1973 textiles output expanded at 2.6% a year. Since joining the EEC/EU it has fallen by more than 6% a year. Whilst it may not be fair to blame all this decline solely on membership of the EU, as there are other factors, it nonetheless suggests, strongly, that joining the EU and helping to create the so-called single market has not helped us grow and has not saved many of our industries from decline.


In some of the above cases EU policies have been the main driver of the disaster. The Common Fishing Policy is clearly the main reason for the dreadful decline of our fishing industry, as many foreign vessels were licenced to take our fish. Our energy intensive businesses were often damaged by the high energy prices required by the EU common energy policy.


The EU has prevented UK subsidy of industry under its state aid rules but has often provided subsidised loans and grants to businesses to set up elsewhere in the EU. As briefly commented on the previous page, the UK has seen a spate of factory closures balanced by new and expanded facilities in poorer EU countries. Looking at our huge balance of payments deficit today in goods with the rest of the EU, we can see the long-term impact of the EU’s damage to our manufacturing capacity.


Recent balance of payments figures show that in our trade with the EU we are in heavy deficit in machinery, vehicles, electrical machinery, mineral fuels, plastics, iron and steel, wood and clothing. Last year’s raw data figures indicate that our total goods trade deficit hit £85 billion with the rest of the EU. Between 2008 and 2015 our exports grew at 5% with the rest of the world, whilst falling with the EU.

 

I have yet to find a Remainer willing and/or able to sit down with me to explain, rationally and unemotionally, just why have we suffered industrial decline and closures, with production shifting elsewhere in Europe since joining the EEC; Or why do we have trade figures in surplus with the rest of the world but have such a huge deficit with the EU and why have we ended up importing fish, electricity, steel and much else when we used to be self- sufficient?

 

11. Will the future Remember Them?

2018 has been the centenary year for remembrance of the welcome end to the First World War. Supposedly, “The War to End All Wars” as it was spoken of by many of the survivors of the horrors and slaughter of that dreadful, wasteful conflict and the politicians and the relatives and families of those who never came back.


Sadly, more recent history reminds us that that hopeful, wishful thinking was not how the past one hundred years has turned out, with the result that we have not only the memorials to that 1914-18 war, but also to the 2nd World War which followed from 1939 to 1945 and the more limited conflicts of Malaya, Korea, the Falklands Islands and the fighting in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Here in Buckley there are two collective war memorials. The one stands close to the site of the now vanished Buckley Royal British Legion Club. That stood as a War Memorial to commemorate, honour and respect all those of whatever nation, colour or creed who gave their lives in the cause of freedom, democracy, liberty and justice. In recent months The Aldi Retail Stores Group funded a refurbishment and renewal of that Royal British Legion war memorial resulting in a re-dedication service held at 11:00 a.m. the morning of Saturday 27th October. Members of the Legion, town council and local dignitaries attended.


As part of the town council’s support for that War Memorial, the council provided a life-sized silhouette figure in durable black plastic, of a 1st World War British Army infantryman, which was placed in a prominent position between the memorial and the three flag-poles. On the morning of Sunday28th October, my wife and I happened to pass by that re-dedicated war memorial. The silhouetted figure was nowhere in sight. On investigating, we found it, uprooted, a little damaged and flung face-down in the bushes beside the war memorial. It had been in position less than 24 hours! It has now been re-located, to the balcony of the town council offices, where the thankfully very small, mindless and destructive element of the town’ population cannot get at it.

 

Continuing on the theme of the centenary year, there is of course the other War Memorial, which carries, engraved in the stonework, the names of the 114 brave souls from Buckley who answered the then call of King and Country, but who sadly never returned. That location should not be overlooked just because it is in a perhaps less prominent position than the Legion’s one which was recently re-dedicated. That second one is specifically The Town’s Commemorative War Memorial, usually called The Cenotaph, located at Hawkesbury, close by the bowling club. It was erected in 1951 under the auspices of the old Buckley Urban District Council.


Although there is no room for any large crowd, the Buckley Branch of the Royal British Legion, supported by town councillors and others, has always held a commemorative service at that location as close to 11:00 a.m. as possible on 11th November each year. 77 years have passed since it was dedicated. Time and the ravages of weather have created an evident need for refurbishment. Putting that right has been delayed by presently unresolved arguments over ownership of the land and the actual monument and therefore who should pay for the refurbishment.
That argument is an unfortunate blemish on this centenary year.

 

 

12. It’s Christmas!

By the time you read this, Christmas will be close by. That time has, for various reasons, become one of joy and celebration for millions of people, Christians and others, all around the world. That is wonderful, so I do sincerely wish you, one and all, a very Merry Christmas, with safe travels wherever you go. However, putting on my Citizens Advice Service hat for a moment, may I urge every one of you, young and old, to resist the persuasions of all too much invasive advertising and only spend what you can genuinely afford. If you take note of my request, your memories of a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” will not come to an abrupt end in February, when the unpayable bills come rolling in. That way, both you and the Citizens Advice Service staff and volunteers will have smiling faces all year long.
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If you have problems and need a word of advice or support, now or in the weeks ahead, remember please that I am always at your service and available, 24 hours of the day and seven days of the week, via my home phone number of 01244 549421. 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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