Welsh Labour

Theme Tune #SaveWILG

What my #SaveWILG campaign is in need of is a theme tune. I hit upon this idea while watching TOTP2 in bed the other night. Tears for Fears were featured in this addition from 1985 and they were preforming their classic hit Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

Without permission, I have took it upon myself to change the words to this popular hit, in order to make it fit with the campaign. If anyone is interested in recording this song I would be happy to contribute to recording costs as I think it would be a really effective way of raising awareness. I am getting carried away with myself now, but I really like the new lyrics that I have created.

Anyway, see for yourself with the video of the Tears for Fears boys posted below, so you have no excuse not to sing along. I have also added a few paragraphs from Wikipedia about Tears for Fears. I do hope there are no copyright issues over the use of this tune as I am giving the writers full credit and not claiming any credit for myself.

I hope you like my new version.

Everybody Wants to Save the WILG

Independent lives
Its our human right
Justice is our goal
We will claim it

Fighting for your children’s future
Turn against bloody Welsh Labour
Everybody wants to save the WILG

It’s my own campaign
Writing to the press
 Postcards in the mail
Badges on my chest

Help me beat the politicians
Principles will last forever
Everybody wants to save the WILG

Local councils just can’t be trusted
Causing deaths as
 Their plans come falling down
When they do, we’ll be right here for you

So glad you’re so supportive
So sad they will not listen
Everybody wants to save the WILG

We can’t stand this indecision
 Minister’s show a lack of vision
Everybody wants to save the WILG

Say that you’ll never, never, never, never cut it
One promise, why believe it?
Everybody wants to save the WILG

Help me beat the politicians
Principles will last forever
 Everybody wants to save the WILG

From Wikipedia:

Tears for Fears are an English pop rock band formed in Bath in 1981 by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. Founded after the dissolution of their first band, the mod-influenced Graduate, they were initially associated with the new wave synthesiser bands of the early 1980s but later branched out into mainstream rock and pop, which led to international chart success. They were part of the MTV-driven Second British Invasion of the US.[8]

Their debut album, The Hurting, released in 1983, reached number one on the UK Albums Chart, while their second album, Songs from the Big Chair, released in 1985, reached number one on the US Billboard 200, achieving multi-platinum status in both the UK and the US.[9][10] Their second album contained two Billboard Hot 100 number ones: “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World“‘, the latter winning the Brit Award for Best British Single in 1986.[11]

Smith and Orzabal parted company in 1991, after the release of their third platinum-selling album The Seeds of Love (1989). Orzabal retained the Tears for Fears name, releasing the albums Elemental (1993) and Raoul and the Kings of Spain (1995) before he and Smith re-formed as Tears for Fears in 2000 and released an album of new material, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, in 2004. Since 2013, the duo have been working on their seventh album.[12] Tears for Fears have sold over 30 million albums worldwide.[13]

Labour Group’s Alternative Budget 2018-19

Please find attached a copy of the WCBC opposition Labour Group’s Alternative 2018/2019 budget, which includes:

An extra £500,000 for Wrexham’s secondary schools
Scrapping planned parking charges for disabled people
Scrapping plans to charge for parking at our country parks
Creating a new supported public travel fund
Reducing the number of senior councillors 

Much needed additional funding to the schools music budget.

This Alternative Budget Report was distributed by WCBC to all Elected Members earlier this afternoon.  The Monitoring Officer has confirmed it can be released into the public domain.  I have just issued to the press.

Members of the public who are supportive should be encouraged to contact ALL WCBC Councillors listed below, sharing their views as to why Councillors should vote in favour of the Alternative Budget at next Wednesday’s Council meeting, 21st February 2018.  The original budget being proposed by this Administration of Tories and Independents can be found at http://moderngov.wrexham.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=128&MId=3723&Ver=4

***

This is the first Alternative Budget to be presented to the new council following the local government elections in May 2017.  We believe it is prudent to briefly explain its purpose for the benefit of our newly elected councillors.

The Alternative Budget is an amendment, in part, to the original budget being presented by this council’s administration of Independent and Conservative members.  Our budget highlights areas where the Labour Group believe alternative spending and income generation can achieve better outcomes for the people of Wrexham county borough.

We are seeking council’s agreement in support of this Alternative Budget.

WCBC Labour Group

Our proposals

Minimum Revenue Provision Saving

Members were informed at council in December 2017 of an unavoidable commitment within the 2018/19 budget due to an unforeseeable overspend in the children’s social care department, pertaining to looked-after children.  The current budget proposal offsets the £820,000 budget pressure against the part-saving realised as a result of council approval to revise its Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) policy, which has produced an overall saving of £1.72m.  The remaining balance is to be used to address the overspend within the PFI Waste Contract.

The Alternative Budget proposes to match the £820,000 overspend from the council’s reserves.  The purpose of the Unallocated General Reserve Fund is to provide for any unexpected expenditure that cannot be managed within existing budgets.  Such expenditure would be one-off and resulting from an extraordinary event.  Given the overspend in children’s social care (of £820,000) was reported at council on December 13, 2017, as an event that meets this criteria, the Alternative Budget proposal supports the children’s social care pressure for 2017/18 being met by a contribution of £820,000 from the general reserves.

Reduction to Executive Board Membership/Saving

It is proposed to reduce the Executive Board membership from ten members to eight and redistribute the lead member roles and responsibilities accordingly.  The current Executive Board members have been in place for nine months with some lead members yet to present a single report to the board.

The Labour Group believes an Executive Board of eight members will be more effective – and at a smaller cost to the taxpayer.

Music Service Uplift

Prior to this year’s budget process, the original music service budget stood at £345,000, with a proposal from this administration to cut £300,000 (87%) from that effective from September 2018.  At last month’s Executive Board, the lead member for education confirmed the actual cut now being proposed is £250,000, leaving music services with a total budget of £95,000 whilst a new delivery model is being sought.

Currently, there are 165 free school meal pupils affected by this service cut.  It is very likely that these pupils will not be able to participate in this weekly programme of tuition if costs are passed from the local authority to parents.  The Labour Group has identified a shortfall in the £95,000 budget of £65,875 to meet the current demand.  We are proposing a further budget uplift of £70,447 to meet current and future demand.

Secondary School Budgets Increase

Wrexham has nine secondary schools and one special school.  Of these ten schools, six have approved licensed deficits averaging -6.87% of their 2017/18 budgets.  Two schools have a surplus of well below 1%.  Over the past two years we have seen more and more central cost moving to individual school budgets.  Schools are currently responsible for a number of on-costs including teacher redundancies and the administration now propose that all schools become responsible for their own salary inflation costs.

Following the scrutiny committee’s December 2017 budget recommendation and a 0.38% increase to last year’s funding from Welsh Government, this administration proposes a net increase of £1.178m to schools.  Whilst this is welcomed, the share of the pot between our 68 schools within the borough is minimal and does not address the need to stabilise school budgets within our secondary sector.  The Labour Group proposes to provide our secondary and special schools with an additional £0.5m to support their improvement.

Supported Public Transport Fund

Wrexham is facing a bus service crisis.  We have recently seen the collapse of another local bus company, with a second withdrawing from public routes.  This has resulted in a reduced public service, with some areas losing their bus route altogether. The Labour Group proposal is to employ a Sustainable Transport and Development Officer (L10 pay grade) on a fixed two-year term to develop a sustainable plan of action for Wrexham.  With on-costs included, this post will total a maximum of £44,353 and a further £50,000 budget is being made available to support applications to Welsh Government to access their £25m Bus Services Support Grant.  It is hoped this additional funding will also be utilised to work with neighbouring local authorities, the bus industry and passenger groups to grow our bus network.  There is scope within the additional budget to investigate the viability of a municipal bus company, owned by WCBC or in collaboration with other local authorities.  The Labour Group recognises the important contribution our local bus services make in maintaining independent living, social cohesion and general wellbeing.

Children’s Social Care Funding Model

Many local authorities buy in residential care placements within children’s social care and are very much apprehensive about providing this service in-house as a consequence of cases such as Bryn Estyn.  At council in December, a significant overspend in the looked-after children’s budget was highlighted.  It was explained that Wrexham is experiencing an unprecedented increase in placements for our looked-after children, however the overspend was as a result of a handful of expensive placements causing a spike in projected costs.

The Labour Group believes there is an opportunity to better predict future demand and contain costs and prices.  A large majority of our placement activity currently takes the form of spot placements at time of need.  These are costly, resource intensive and an inefficient approach within an unstable market place with insufficient places.  A move to a block model would ensure the council gets more stable placements at a lower price.  Children are placed

into a more sustainable and stable environment where the corporate parents, the local authority and provider work within a procurement and parenting model to deliver the right care at the right time at the right price.  A February 2018 Municipal Journal article quoted the alternative block guarantee model as a saving of 7% against our current spot price, with more positive outcomes for our looked-after children.  Good data and trend information is pivotal to the success of this model and the proposed budget of £65,000 allows for the buying-in of key data and resource.

Reduction in cut to Country Park Rangers

The council is proposing a cut of £100,000.  The Difficult Decisions consultation programme saw strong opposition which the ruling administration has chosen to ignore.  The Labour Group hoped to scrap this proposed cut completely by proposing a salary reduction for senior councillors (from deputy mayor through to council leader).  However, due to the changes coming from the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales, we are not yet in a position to bring this forward.  Leaving this item in our Alternative Budget proposal would have meant our proposals would not have met the requirements of setting a legal and balanced budget.  The Labour Group’s proposal is to fund £50,000.

Withdraw Charging for Disabled Parking and Country Parks

The Labour Group disagrees with the administration’s proposal to charge for disabled parking and the Alternative Budget withdraws this charge in its entirety.  We are disappointed that no consultation has been undertaken directly with those who will be affected.  There is a general belief that this income will not be realised as there are free alternatives to parking for our disabled citizens.  The current proposal by the administration will place additional pressures on an environment budget that continually overspends. Additionally, the Labour Group opposes the current administration’s proposal to charge for parking at our country parks and our Alternative Budget would again withdraw this charge in its entirety.

Risks

As with any budget, there are financial risks to consider and there is a need to measure these risks within the proposed Alternative Budget.

The spending proposals outlined within the summary are of low risk.  The outcomes can be easily realised with political will and the commitment of lead members and officers.  There are also opportunities to work collaboratively with other local authorities and partners, which will further reduce risk.

The medium risk within this proposed Alternative Budget is the removal of £820,000 from our General Reserve Fund.  Reserves can only be used once. However, the Labour Group believes that the risk to our reserves is considerably reduced as we are addressing the current and escalating pressures facing the council within our Alternative Budget proposal.

The greater risk is by not addressing those pressures, which could lead to the council writing a blank cheque as costs increase within outsourced services or cutting more services to meet demand pressures elsewhere.

Summary

Minimum Revenue Provision Saving                  (£820,000)

Reduction of Executive Board Membership       (£31,800)

Total:                                                                           (£851,800)

Proposed Uses:

Music Service Uplift                                                 £70,447
Secondary School Budgets Increase                     £500,000
Supported Public Transport Resource/Fund      £94,353
Children’s Social Care Funding Model                 £65,000
Reduction in cut to Country Park Rangers          £50,000
Withdraw Charging for Disabled Parking          £25,000
Withdraw Country Park Parking Charges          £47,000

Budget Gap:                                                                £ 0

Conclusion

The Labour Group’s Alternative Budget provides the council with opportunities to develop a public transport system that works and meets the needs of our citizens, addresses the rising costs of child placements and goes some distance to stabilising current pressures experienced by our secondary schools.

The Alternative Budget allows our most vulnerable pupils the right to participate in music tuition. We have also removed proposed charges for disabled parking and parking in our country parks and support only a 50% reduction to the administration’s planned cut our Country Park Rangers.

Letter from Lesley Griffiths AM Concerning Blue Badge Proposals

I received the following letter from Lesley Griffiths AM regarding Wrexham Council’s appalling decision to push ahead with the proposed Blue Badge parking charges. I share this letter to highlight the positive support that is being offered to me by my Welsh Labour AM and a small group of Local Councillors in the face of heartless, overgrown bullies who cannot see the absurdity of their actions.

I am hopeful that I will soon receive word from Lesley about whether or not she can help us move the #SaveWILG exhibition to the Senedd. If she is not in a position to help us do this due to party pressures then I must accept this – however much I disagree – and I will try to contact other AM’s for their support.

Anyway, here is the letter, followed by an article by Wrexham.com which is referred to by Lesley.

Dear Nathan 

Further to my letter of 6 February 2018, I enclose a copy of a detailed article published by Wrexham.com on 8 February 2018, which details events at the call-in meeting regarding Wrexham Council’s proposals to introduce charges for Blue Badge holders.

As you are aware, I am totally opposed to the proposals and have made my views known to the Leader of Wrexham Council. 

Despite the call-in notice from Welsh Labour Councillors, which attempted to get Wrexham Council’s Executive Board to reconsider their proposals, the motion was defeated.

The final page of the Wrexham.com article highlights how individual Councillors voted and I was disappointed to see that your local Councillor, I David Bithell, voted with the ruling body to reject the report going back to the Executive Board.

This ill-advised policy has been solely devised and pursued by the Tory/Independent administration which runs Wrexham Council.  Many constituents contacted me about the proposals so it is frustrating that Councillors who had the ideal chance to challenge the Executive Board’s decision, chose to spurn the opportunity.  

I believe it would be worth your while contacting your local Councillor to ascertain why he voted this way and I will continue to make my views on the matter clear to the Council Leader.

I hope this information is useful and if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Lesley Griffiths, AM                                                                          

***

Full Council on track to decide country parks & disabled parking charges as consultation goes ahead

Published by Wrexham.com: Thursday, Feb 8th, 2018

An attempt to get the Executive Board to reconsider how they carry out a consultation into charging for disabled parking and at Wrexham’s country parks failed after a lengthy two and a half hour debate.

The call-in meeting was explained to members of the employment, business and investment scrutiny committee as being more of a ‘technical meeting; rather than

scrutiny of decisions itself – with the call in reasons before the meeting being the topic of debate. However that point was lost on some of the councillors taking part.

The call-in notice from Welsh Labour councillors claimed the Council’s Executive had failed in numerous ways, including informing councillors of the financial implications, any risks to the Environment Budget, and if mitigation plans were in place for any

unintended displacement affects for various parking charge changes.

The call-in notice explained that due to this they felt the decision to start a necessary statutory legal consultation was ‘premature’, and in essence there should be a new decision – effectively to start a consultation with all the allegedly missing information in place before going out to get the views of the public or specific groups.

That was the ‘calling in’ of the decision, so the committee would decide if they thought that was the case, and if so refer the decision back to the Executive Board to reconsider the decision, or not. If referred back Executive Board could either stick or alter their

original decision, which would then be immune to further call-in.

The decision would mean a consultation would take place either way, and the decision on introduction on charges would still be subject to approval by councillors at a Full Council meeting scheduled for 21 February 2018.

With that backdrop some councillors took the opportunity to re-run the debate on if charging for disabled parking, or if charging for parking in country parks is a good thing or not, rather than focusing on the five points up for debate on the call in.

The responsible Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr David A Bithell was on hand to answer questions, along with the relevant council officer plus various other council staff. Cllr Bithell appeared to have a pre-prepared set of statements to answer each of the five points in turn, but was happy to add further detail when requested.

Cllr Derek Wright presented each formal question on the call-in notice, with several appended queries to each where possible. Members of the committee also posed questions, which ranged from anecdotal evidence to specific financial queries.

1

Cllr Marc Jones and Cllr Dana Davies queried on the basis the financial implications had not been made clear to Councillors, with questions on if figures presented were net or

gross numbers.

News that parking machine and other costs are pencilled in as a E50k capital spend did appear to be new information to those on the cnommittee, which was then probed

further by Cllr Marc Jones who asked if extra staff would be needed to empty machines or monitor the site – but was told no.

After a short grilling Cllr Marc Jones indicated he was still unhappy, stating: “All these figures are based on predictions of people using these services, what if they do not use them and they park on side streets?

“The E50k capital cost will not be recovered.”

Cllr Bithell noted that the debate was veering to the third point on the call-in notice, regarding mitigation on people using street parking instead of car parking.

Cllr Davies did some rough maths to point out she did not believe the figures presented added up, and invited clarity to where the E25k revenue sum came from – stating either she made El 9k based on the figures and method infront of her.

Cllr Bithell disputed her numbers, pointing out that Cllr Davies was basing her figures off a El charge when some figures were off a El .80 charge – a ‘confusion’ attributed to

the difference in country park rates being in the same debate as disabled bay charging.

Cllr Davies said the figures had come from a previous meeting, however this was disputed again, with the formulae and forecasts being described as a ‘fluid process’ and based off ‘conservative estimates’.

After details on numbers of spaces and various calculations Cllr Davies said: “l am still not getting where the E25k is substantiated from, the figures do not add up, I am not

sure where we have plucked the E25k from.”

Cllr Paul Jones interjected to call the E50k capital cost as ‘brand new information’, saying “Someone should have done a cost benefit analysis and shared it. This is what this call-in is all about.”

Head of Environment and Planning Lawrence Isted spoke to reassure the committee: “Whenever we are working out things like this we use our best judgement and best estimates. We do not over egg things.

“The capital costs are not new, or a new situation.”

Mr Isted added that the proposals were based on ‘previous work with our reshaping partners PWC’.

Cllr Paul Jones bluntly asked: “So why are we hearing about these costs now?’

2

Cllr Bithell replied to point out there had been five budget workshops, five extra scrutiny meetings before Christmas and that on the relevant scrutiny meeting before Christmas

‘there were not many questions on this.’

He added: “A lot of these costs are fluid until we come to a decision. It has been worked up with the help of Officers, and the Executive Board agrees the Budget.

“l did highlight at the Executive Board meeting there would be costs. There is not much rocket science behind this, it is standard procedure.”

Cllr Paul Jones was not swayed, accusing Cllr Bithell of ‘playing up the savings that are the good news, but underplaying the capital costs’.

Cllr Wright said he was ‘shocked’ by the f50k capital cost, saying it had been ‘magiced out of the air’.

He then asked about if savings were a single saving, or year on year ‘as there was nothing in the second column’. A question that had been asked many times in the set of

scrutiny meetings before Christmas, as the documents before them had a Year 1 saving and a Year 2 saving.

As explained several times previously, and again at the meeting, the Year 1 saving was ongoing thereafter and any Year 2 saving would be new and on top – and ongoing as

well.

Questions over risks were batted back by Cllr Bithell who gave a quick bleak overview over the budget of the Environment Department, ending with “if we do not generate income in one way or another we will have to cut services.”

Cllr Davies gave the analogy of putting a risk, if the proposals were unsuccessful and were a cost rather than a revenue raiser, on top of existing problems in the department, saying ‘It could make the situation worse not better, the risk is escalating, it is risk on another risk’.

The finance officer also pointed out that in a previous report before councillors an appendix had risks detailed.

Other questions in the call-in notice were dealt with in a similar manner, with it noted that the claim there was no mitigation for people being displaced to on street parking.

The council officer pointed out it was acknowledged in documents presented to councillors previously, pointing out that the majority of the town centre’s roads were subject to some kind of parking regulations already.

Cllr Marc Jones was particularly unhappy, stating: “It is human nature, people are price sensitive to parking. People will spend El 00 in a shop but will not pay El .80 to park.

“People will circle streets to look for a space than pay to park. We know what a problem parking in the town centre is, and as a result of this we will see people use side streets.”

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“I was not on the council two years ago, and I am concerned we are looking at PWC modelling from two years ago, it is old information.”

Cllr AlunJenkins made a very long speech giving a grim appraisal of the current austerity situation in the UK, and how he disagreed with the proposals being made, but did recognise the decisions before the council saying it was like ‘having both arms cut off but which one first’, adding he would prefer not to have either chopped off.

Cllr Jenkins was keen to get assurances that nothing would be progressed without consultation, which Cllr Bithell was happy to offer, as that was on the table either way.

Cllr Bithell pointed out to the meeting that the proposals were ‘not about deterring people from coming to the town centre, it is about making spaces accessible.’

Cllr Davies queried the consultation process, noting that it had been described several times as ‘implementing a traffic order’, “My understanding is we have to identify who we want to consult with, if we have a group with protected characteristics we should be consulting with them specifically.”

“It has been mentioned we would encourage them to take part on our website or in newspapers, but the public have to engage and to do that they have to understand the process and context. They need to know the information to make it a meaningful

consultation. We are going through the motions with a traffic order.”

Cllr Bithell pointed out an impact equality statement had been ‘done’, describing it as a ‘fluid document’, and offered assurance that the statutory process would be followed.

The debate then turned to the principle of charging for disabled parking, with Cllr Bithell saying “It is about having accessible spaces” noting that Blue Badges were not means tested.

Cllr Paul Jones angrily pointed out a range of cases Blue Badges could be used for, stating very young children who were terminally ill, fixed income adults, veterans who

were on fixed incomes, ending by stating the proposals were regressive “If they can’t afford to pay it, they do not have access”.

Cllr Tina Mannering gave a personal account of why she held her view, saying: “It is more about access and space not the money.

“Not all haven’t got money or funds, some are very well off, more than those working. It is about access than the cost of car parking.”

Cllr Paul Jones cited data that says there are 9,000 Blue Badge holders in Wrexham, saying that Cllr Mannering was talking about one or two’.

Cllr Mannering said it was “Offensive to assume they do not have money, they are as

equal as everyone else. It is not the money it is the access.”

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Cllr Paul Jones said, “Some can afford it. Some can’t afford it. We do not know if 8,000 or how many can’t afford it.”

Cllr Mannering retorted, “If we do not consult we will not know.”

Cllr Paul Jones again reiterated why the call-in was made, to request a more detailed consultation: “I would expect Officers to know that before a decision was made, not to implement and hope for the best, not trade anecdotal stories, we should be working on hard evidence.”

The debate moved on to specific points, including asking if council enforcement was a seven day operation (it is) and it noted that if proposals proceed then Blue Badge

parking on double yellow lines in Ty Mawr could increase. The meeting was told the

yellow lines were brought in as a response to improve child safety at the park, and thus the proposals were seen by some as increasing risk on that front.

The meeting headed past the two hour mark and just before 6pm Cllr Bithell left, leaving Cllr Marc Jones and Mr Isted to have an interesting exchange over revenue raising and cuts proposals recently.

Cllr Marc Jones said he had ‘sympathy’ with officers on the proposals: ‘We are told we have to do these or do worse, and we are told to come up with alternatives. We are told ‘if you do not support this you have to find something else’. Really, we pay council officers to give us options. What are the other options?”

Cllr Marc Jones contrasted the health aims of Wrexham Council to the policy of charging for parking at country parks, and also pointed out it was not equal if councillors were able to park in the town centre cheaper than disabled people, adding: “How the hell is that equality?”

Mr Isted replied pointing out the goal of the lead member was likely to ensure no loss of services or core services and thus the proposals: ‘We used to call them efficiencies, then efficiency savings, and now we have to accept they are cuts.

“We went through a long list years back of ‘green’ things, like we used to do twinning, that went. Then we did the ‘amber’ things, and now we are in the ‘red’ area.”

Hinting at the ‘alternative options’, a grim pointer towards cutting of ‘core functions’ was made which the meeting was told would be made up of ‘largely reducing staff in core

activities’, with the ‘worse case scenarios affecting the core functions of the council’.

Mr Isted concluded that the committee would not be wishing to do that, and thus the suggestions and proposals put forward

Clr Jenkins cites Northamptonshire Council that recently started emergency spending controls – says Wales is 3-4 years.behind England, says ‘watch this space’ for Wrexham, “If austerity continues there is no point having councils”.

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With the doom and gloom and two and a half hours of debate appearing to sap the will of the committee to keep going, despite the frustration of Cllr Wright who pointed out he had ‘many more questions to ask’ proceedings headed towards a vote.

The choice before councillors was clear to some, despite the attempts to form a specific recommendation.

Finally it was basically agreed for a simple success v failure vote on the 2nd 3rd and 5th points of the call-in notice contents, and if the ‘case’ had been successful.

The motion was proposed by Cllr Davies and seconded by Cllr Marc Jones, with Cllr

Mannering attempting a counter motion. The vote was about to proceed before Cllr Atkinson spoke to explain his view on the various points, explaining that he felt officers were aware of risks and the financial issues raised had been ‘clearly explained’.

A point of order was called by Cllr Wright to point out the debate had ended and a vote was due and the Chairman Rodney Skelland should not allow further debate.

After two and a half hours the vote saw the proposal to refer the decision back to the Executive Board fall, with the councillors for and against neatly falling into party and administration alliance lines.

The Plaid Cymru (Cllr Marc Jones), Liberal Democrat (Cllr Alun Jenkins) and Labour (Cllr Paul Jones, Cllr Adrienne Jeorett and Cllr Dana Davies) members present voted to refer the decision back to the Executive Board.

Members of the Conservative group (Cllr Andrew Atkinson) and two Independent groups (Cllr Trevor Bates, Cllr Geoff Lowe, Cllr I David Bithell, Cllr Nigel Williams, Cllr Sonia Benbow-Jones and Cllr Tina Mannering) voting to reject the report going back to the Executive Board.

We don’t think the Chairman Cllr Rodney Skelland (Conservative) voted as per convention – however due to the layout of the room it was unclear due to the architecture, and we have no video or pictures to show you as the Councillors do not allow filming or the taking of pictures of raised hands.

A final decision is set to be made at Full Council on Wednesday 21st February. The meeting is open to the public

 

Falling Apart at the Seams

 Loads of things to let you know, but so little time.

First of all a little self promotion, as the following paragraph is from Ian Lucas MP’s monthly CLP report:

I have been working alongside Nathan Davies, a party member here in Wrexham, over the changes the Government has made to the Independent Living Fund. The debate included MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England as well as Welsh Labour colleagues Susan Elan Jones and Jessica Morden, and it was notable that each part of England criticised the changes the UK Government has made to the administration of the successor to ILF. I was able to pay tribute to the work Nathan has been doing – and to highlight his front page appearance in the Leader that morning. I was not particularly impressed with the Minister’s response, although I will take her up on her offer to meet to discuss my concerns. 

The following video accompanies this text:

Independent Living Debate with Ian Lucas

I think we have established how brilliant I am, but this awesome individual is also struggling at the moment with the effects of Friedrich’s Ataxia. This cruel disease is progressing quickly and really starting to affect my swallowing and speech. I have particular problems before food as I am regularly coughing and choking uncontrollably on my own saliva as I anticipate my food.

Another problem is with my speech. I am afraid that I am beginning to slur more than I use to and I just cant bear listening to myself on TV or radio as the voice that I hear is not the one that I hear in my head when speaking. I really should do something about both problems, but as I am so busy trying to save WILG, I am letting my health slide.

Earlier this week, I received a phone call from the local hospital asking me to come in for a camera down my throat following discussion with my GP about my difficulties choking. I chose to decline there kind offer as I am so busy with other things and cannot afford to lose my voice or become ill at the moment.

I received a newsletter from Ataxia UK today informing me of a speech and language therapy course that they are running in association with the University of Stirling. The second are all taking place through Skype so they are open to everyone. I really should take part and I would like to if only I had the luxury of time to spend looking after myself. The Tories and Wrexham council are ensuring that this is just not possible at the moment.

1Study Advert, Version 4.0, 05 January 2018

Speech Therapy Treatment Study for Friedreich’s Ataxia

Communication problems are a frequent consequence of ataxia. Many people report a decrease in quality of life as they can impact on our social relationships, employment opportunities, etc. Yet there currently is no effective treatment for speech problems that has been properly evaluated, and there is uncertainty amongst clinicians on how best to support people with ataxia with their communication.

We are looking for participants for a study investigating a new treatment approach for speech problems. There is good evidence that this approach is effective for Parkinson’s Disease and we  want to find out whether it can also help those with ataxia. This study is funded by Ataxia UK and aCHaf and carried out by researchers at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

The treatment will be administered via Skype in your home and there is no need to attend a clinic. It will run for 8 weeks, with two therapy sessions per week and homework practice for the other days. A typical LSVT therapy session will involve practising a good voice production on a series of long ‘ahhhs’ focusing on controlling the loudness of your voice, as well as the pitch. We will then try and transfer these skills to speaking by reading out individual words and functional phrases, working our way up to longer stretches of speech over the course of therapy. As treatment will be carried out in English, it is important that you have Basic English speaking and reading skills. This protocol of activities will be the same for each session, but the materials will increase in complexity. Homework exercises will follow a similar protocol to the therapy sessions and will take about 30 minutes. Ideally, we would like you to practise at least another four times during the week.

We will measure how much your speech has changed after treatment, and also ask you what youthought of the therapy approach. To do this, we will perform two short assessments before and two after treatment, and also do an interview. This will again be done via Skype. Altogether, the study will take about 6 months.

To be able to take part, you need to fulfil the following criteria:
􀁸 Have a confirmed diagnosis of Friedreich’s Ataxia
􀁸 Experience speech or voice problems
􀁸 Not have any other neurological or speech problems
􀁸 Be aged 16 or over
􀁸 Have access to the necessary technology (good internet connection, access to a computer

that allows you to use Skype and has a functional microphone input)
􀁸 Have Basic English speaking and reading skills

If you are interested in participating, please get in touch with us by phone or email and we will give you more detailed information. Please contact:

Aisling Egan
Speech and Language Therapy Unit
School of Psychological Sciences and Health
Strathclyde University
Tel: 0141 548 4393
Email: aisling.egan@strath.ac.uk

I should probably email Aisling to find out more information.

I cannot end this blog without mentioning the two events that have on this week.  The first of which is a #SaveWILG Art exhibition at Theatr Clwyd in Mold, north Wales. This event runs from January 24th to February 12th and includes art, poetry and pictures from a wide range of disability activists and artists. The official media day for this is on February 2nd. I am very proud of what we have put together in such a short space of time.

A leaflet for the Theatr Clwyd event has also been produced by Heather Wilson.

SaveWILGSideA2

SaveWILGSideB2 copy

Our North-East Wales WLG/M comrades are centrally involved in organising this great event. It will be a fantastic occasion, but we need to get as many people there as possible! This is a day of entertainment and information. There is alcohol, soft drinks and food on sale at the venue and there is full Disabled access and a Disabled toilet.  The least we hope anyone can do is promote this event by sharing the flyer and printing it off and putting around your area, disability groups, CLPs etc etc. Raising awareness of the event is crucial to the campaign’s success!The event is FREE to all. Please do help in any way you can.

Schedule

 

Windfall for Councils #SaveWILG

I had a rather interesting email in my inbox this afternoon. It was from my Assembly Member, Lesley Griffiths. My eyes were drawn to the following story:

Extra £60m for Councils in Wales Over Next Two Years

Wrexham Council’s budget for the upcoming financial year is increasing.

The final local government settlements put forward by the Welsh Government before Christmas state that Wrexham Council will receive a 0.4% increase to its budget in the next financial year – a fact I’ve highlighted to the Council Leader on more than one occasion.

Clearly financial pressures remain as the UK Government continues its flawed drive towards austerity.

However, it is disappointing the increase in funding from Welsh Government has not been publically acknowledged or welcomed by the Local Authority.

I believe it’s important Wrexham residents recognise decisions to cut funding for music services and introduce parking charges at country parks and for blue badge holders, have been solely devised and pursued by the Tory/Independent Councillors that run Wrexham Council.

I think I have a good relationship with Lesley Griffiths AM and fully support the work she does in the community. She also represents me well in negotiations with the impossible local council.

It is interesting that she points out that Wrexham councils budget has been increased by such a large amount while they still continue with there campaign of cruel ideological austerity. Lesley is right to point at decisions to cut funding for music services and introduce car parking charges for blue badge holders. I would like to point out that these cuts also apply to social care and the loss of WILG – a disgraceful decision by Welsh labour – to support local authority payments , is likely to be disastrous for the independent living of disabled people.

One of the things that was made crystal clear throughout the consultation and all of the discussions before and after is that it is the experience of disabled people and unpaid Carers that some local authorities simply cannot be trusted to translate the 2014 Social Services and Well-being Act into genuine independent living for those who require high levels of support.
I also received another email from Momentum informing me of the candidates for the forthcoming Welsh Labour Deputy Leader race. The outstanding candidate seems to be Julie Morgan who I will definitely be supporting. I only hope that she is one of the few Welsh Labour voices to see the unfairness of ending WILG so suddenly and putting disabled people with high care and support needs at risk of negligence from local authorities.

 

Letter from Ken Skates AM #SaveWILG

This letter has been sent to a number of #SaveWILG  campaigners from Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure Ken Skates who has represented the constituency of Clwyd South since the National Assembly for Wales election of 2011. I don’t know why I am bothering sharing this nonsense, but if you don’t read it yourself then you wont believe the inaccuracies that are being pedalled by the Welsh Government.

It is an interesting aside that this is the man who I worked with at the Evening Leader In the late nineties. I would read and sub edit his work and we both went on a jolly to Legoland, Windsor when I was asked to review the theme park. I drove there while he slept in the passenger seat, now he is defending Welsh Labour for copying the Tories of Westminster and basically selling me down the river. What ever he says, the same will happening Wales as is happening in England. Maybe he actually believes that Welsh Labour are doing the right thing by closing WILG, but I am actually living with the consequences of the end of a three way triangular structure to care and support and I can assure him that it is a living nightmare.

Before you read the letter, which I will reply to if I ever get the chance, I must try to express my frustrations with life at the moment. I am really struggling to type at all, at a time when I need to write so many emails and letters. My diary is jam packed but I don’t have enough care and support to attend all the appointments that I have. I am stressed and worried about the future while I sit in loneliness and desperation with a puddle of piss on the bathroom floor after dropping my urinal. I have to wait for support to arrive to clear this up.

I want to assure Ali Granger, Andrew Ranger, Paul Swann and Liz Lefroy that I will respond to their emails ASAP.

I will finish this blog with a humorous observation. I was incredulous when I received an email from Welsh Labour who where offering signed Jeremy Corbyn bags as a prize in a fundraising drive. You couldn’t make it up. Welsh Labour have a track record of distancing themselves from JC, but here they are exploiting an opportunity to profit from the popularity of the Labour leader. The Labour manifesto actually proposes a return to a three tiered care system, which the powers that be in Cardiff are doing their best to destroy.

Bedtime now, but here is the letter from Ken Skates. I wonder who sub-edited it…

 

Dear XXXX
 
Thank you for taking the time to contact me recently on this important issue.
 
The Conservative UK Government closed the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in June 2015 and the Welsh Labour Government subsequently established the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) as an interim scheme administered by local councils to ensure people receiving payments through the ILF continued to do so. The Minister for Social Service and Public Health, Rebecca Evans, extended the transitional scheme last year until March 31 this year in order to develop longer-term arrangements in consultation with organisations representing people with disabilities.
 
WILG was only ever meant to be a short-term measure to provide continuity of support for former recipients of ILF. The UK Government provided a transfer of £27m a year to meet the cost of providing this interim support, but this leaves no scope to fund a change in people’s needs, any changes in the cost of the support they require or for operating any scheme to support them. Such costs, therefore, need to be taken out of this funding at the expense of care for all.
 
The Minister looked at a range of options for long-term support that ensures people with disabilities in receipt of WILG continue to receive support to meet the additional costs of living independently in the community. In doing so, it became clear that continuing with a separate scheme outside of normal social services provision would not be appropriate. This is because it would continue the inequity of some disabled people receiving their support from their local authority, while others receive specific WILG payments in addition to the support they receive from their council. It was also felt that continuing with a separate scheme had the potential of becoming unsustainable in the longer-term as the money provided for it by the UK Government was fixed at £27m a year so the value of payments through the scheme would gradually diminish. In addition, this fixed sum does not take into account costs associated with changes in a person’s needs and would not be enough to meet the needs of those who receive it.
 
Rebecca Evans concluded that future support through normal social care provision via local authorities would be the most effective approach as it ensures that funding is used to provide support to recipients rather than being used disproportionately towards operating costs of a separate scheme as is currently the case. This approach addresses the issue of equality for all people with disabilities in receipt of social care support in Wales while making the best use of finite resources.
 
The Welsh Government recognises that some recipients would have preferred a different decision and is aware of concerns about the way in which a transfer to local authorities has worked in England. The Welsh Government has looked closely at developments in England and has learned lessons about what not to do. Funding for the WILG will continue in its current format until 2018-19, when it will transfer to councils. During this time, local authorities will meet with recipients of WILG and their representatives to identify the outcomes they are seeking to achieve and agree a package of support with them. Once this support is available, it will be provided to help people live independently instead of the payments previously received and the expectation is that by March 31, 2019 all WILG recipients will receive their support in this way. Recipients of WILG will only move into the new arrangements when the support they require is available.
 
Once again, thank you for contacting me on this issue. I fully understand why some of my constituents want the scheme to continue, but hope that the information provided will reassure you that the Welsh Government is not simply copying what the UK Government did in England and is putting in place a long-term solution which is fair to all disabled people who receive support from their local authority. This will ensure that they continue to live as independently as possible in their own homes. Please be assured that I will continue to raise your views with the Minister for Social Services and Public Health in all relevant discussions.
 
 
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if there is anything I can help with in the future.
 
 
Best wishes,
 
 
Ken

Writing to local newspapers…

I have written the following letter to a number of local newspapers across Wales, urging the Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).The campaign for justice continues…

If you wish to write a letter in support of this campaign, use the following emails:

This is the email that I fired off in the hope that people will read it and take notice of what is going on. It is worth a go.

 

I am writing as a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Labour to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019. This payment was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015.

WILG was due to run until the end of March 2017, but Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans said in November that funding would continue for another year.

The annual £27m fund will then transfer directly to local authorities during 2018-19 so they can meet the support needs of all former ILF recipients by 31 March 2019.

Something needs to be done as our disabled friends in England have suffered under a similar system that has seen local authorities being solely responsible for their care and support since 2015. This cannot be allowed to happen in Wales as well. Disabled people must organise themselves and demand to be listened to.

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens who didn’t want WILG scrapped. The key point is that the advice of disabled people was ignored.

This is the time to fight back as Welsh Labour are basking in the glory of Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the recent General Election. The prevailing mood has changed and Welsh Labour have apparently made a significant shift to the left. Surely, Welsh Labour will want to distance themselves from a decision that mirrors the one made by the Tory Government in 2010?

It should also be remembered that closure of WILG is not inevitable as is proved through the formation and success of the Scottish Independent Living Fund; which also works to support the Northern Ireland ILF.

Furthermore, the hugely popular Labour Party Manifesto outlined plans to set up a national care system to exist independently of local authorities. This is exactly the time that the Labour Party should be united on such issues against the Tories. We must question why Welsh Labour are not playing their part in the changing political landscape?

They will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed. However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success – with no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure. 

Indeed, eventually it should be our aim to set up an Independent Living Fund for Wales so that no disabled person should have to suffer the same uncertainty and isolation as WILG recipients are now experiencing. We can only begin to believe that true social justice and equality for all is possible if Welsh Labour revisit their WILG decision…

There are a number of ways that WILG recipients, family members and personal assistants can help to make a difference. Those concerned can sign the petition that has currently received almost 250 signatures, take part in the postcard campaign that is being orchestrated across social media and put pen to paper to their local AM. To find out more about these projects, please contact Nathan Lee Davies at nathandavies01@hotmail.com or search Facebook for the Save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) page. Twitter users can find me on @nathanleedavies or you can find all the information about this campaign on my blog at https://nathanleedavies.wordpress.com/

Thank you for your time.

Nathan Lee Davies, Wrexham