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Anglesey County Council



GREEN FLAG AWARD FOR ANGLESEY'S HOLYHEAD BREAKWATER PARK

September 20 2010


Located in the old quarry area of Holyhead the Breakwater Park is a much loved community asset in addition to being a welcoming and enjoyable natural attraction for visitors to the Isle of Anglesey.

The Green Fag was finally unfurled in the Breakwater Park by school children and local dignitaries. This award of the Green Flag by the Green Flag Partnership Plus is a very public acknowledgement of the quality of this managed natural asset on Holy Island.

The Green Flag was officially presented to the County Council by Assembly Minister for the Environment, Jane Davidson at the Royal Welsh Show in July. Receiving the Green Flag Award in Builth Wells were Cllr J V Owen and Park Warden, William Stewart and Anglesey Council’s Countryside Warden, Gareth Evans.

The Green Flag is awarded according to achievement of the criteria laid down for being a welcoming place, a healthy, secure, clean, well-maintained space with sustainable conservation and heritage, engagement with the community, good marketing and management.






The Breakwater Park is the original concept developed by the Planning and Environment Department of the County Council who have been duly rewarded for their excellent work in developing and maintaining this wonderful asset on behalf of the people of Anglesey.

Rightly so, as the Holyhead Breakwater Park offers a whole host of attractions for visitors and is set in over 100 acres of open space in and around the old quarry. For information, this is one of the quarries which was supplied the rock for the construction of the Breakwater Park which incidentally, was not built with the plans upside down as local myth has it.

It is a fascinating space to wander about with the obvious industrial heritage presented well, the quarry pools and, of course the famous Anglesey Coastal Path. One can walk up the obvious ridge to inspect the North Stack Fog Horn and further on to South Stack Lighthouse.






This prestigious award is a fillip for the troubled Anglesey County Council and a boost to the pride of the town of Holyhead.

The unfurling of the Green Flag was presided over by Anglesey County Council Chairman Selwyn Williams, accompanied by Albert Owen MP, County Councillor John Chorlton and local primary school children.

I understand that the warden, William Stewart should be congratulated for managing to pull the flag up the pole despite technical challenges.


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CONTROVERSIAL ANGLESEY COUNCILLOR HANGS UP HIS HAT

September 2010


It’s been a while now since Councillor Fowlie stepped down from his role as Leader of the Isle of Anglesey County Council. He now stands down as a County Councillor for the Ward of Rhosneigr because of ill-health.

Mr Fowlie came to power in May 2008 following the County Council Elections by forming a coalition between his party, the Original Independents, and the nationalist Plaid Cymru.

During his tenure in the Leadership role, Councillor Fowlie found himself mired in a great deal of conflict between the various political groups that make up the Council.

A number of the councillors who were part of his ruling group were referred to the Welsh Assembly’s Public Services Ombudsman for alleged misconduct. Councillor Durkin has since been cleared of misconduct.

The primary controversy involved the removal of the County Council’s Managing Director, Mr Derrick Jones. Allegations of improper use of public money pursuing this end were quashed and charges of misconduct were dismissed; however, there was an enormous amount of anger over their actions.

It was alleged that the Ruling Group was unhappy with Mr Derrick Jones’ expressed intent to introduce well-defined Corporate Governance in order to relieve the people of Anglesey from constant in-fighting among groups that was proving highly embarrassing and damaging.

The allegations that led to Mr Jones coming to a mutual financial agreement and leaving have since been proven to be unfounded.

Anglesey lost a talented individual who had accepted the job of Managing Director with the understanding that he would seek to bring an end to the conflict. The same Council Cabinet that employed him on these grounds dismissed him in a very pubic and messy affair.

Mr Jones left with a significant cheque and this cost was in addition to legal costs are regarded by many as a desperate waste of public money during a time of financial hardship for the County Council.






It has to be said that the current political situation in Anglesey County Council under the leadership of Councillor Clive McGregor has seen a period of stability.

Councillor McGregor has to be congratulated for dismissing the known troublesome elements from the ruling group and forming a political partnership that seems to be working for the best interests of Anglesey.

Since Mr Fowlie stood down from his role as Leader, the Welsh Assembly Government has imposed a pro tem Managing Director, Mr David Bowles to bring order to the strong disputes that has existed between local politicians and senior officers. This is one step away from taking over the local authority body.






Mr Fowlie may have left the County Council, though County Council issues have certainly not left him. On September 27 he is due to face the Adjudication Panel of Wales over specific allegations that he brought Anglesey County Council into disrepute.






As mentioned above, Mr Fowlie is unwell and will be undergoing heart surgery in the near future. This is a pre-existing condition known for many years.

So, a controversial political career has come to an end and all things aside it would be disingenuous not to wish him successful treatment and full recovery.


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"NAME AND SHAME DISREPUTABLE ANGLESEY COUNCILLORS."

October 22nd 2009


County Councillor Peter Rogers revels in the description of him as a ‘Maverick’. It’s true that Cllr Rogers tends to fire from the hip regularly, but one other thing that has been consistent about him is his call to name those county councillors who continue to bring the County Council into disrepute.

On Anglesey we have come used to lay Welsh TV programmes coming here to make another outrageous exposé of some alleged double-dealing or other. It is no longer humorous to learn once again that your democratically elected councillors are behaving like schoolyard gangs of kids trying to outdo each other. Most people who are aware of the situation seem to know who these individuals are.

The general public complaint is that these councillors no longer seem to be motivated by any notion of Public Service but by self-interest and resentful counter-dealing. Political affiliations seem based on ‘Your my best friend - I hate you’ fragility.

Councillor Rogers has called for those county councillors who have been the subject of a Welsh Assembly Audit Inquiry to be named and shamed. Many people were surprised that the recent Auditor’s report chose not to name those involved in such activities as actively conniving to remove the previous Managing Director, Mr Derrick Jones on no legitimate grounds whatsoever.

The Audit Report found that all allegations against Mr Jones were not substantiated at all. Anglesey lost a very capable man who sought to do nothing more than bring correct governance to a County Council torn apart with conflict. The relationship between senior offices and the County Councillors has ever been at such an all-time low – since last time, at least.

In a surprise letter to the Holyhead & Anglesey Mail last week Cllr Trefor Lloyd Hughes of the ruling Plaid Cymru/Conservative/Independents coalition called out publicly for those constantly causing ‘mischief’ to be named so that a line could be drawn under the entire affair.

Cllr Rogers believed that the Welsh Assembly decision not to name has allowed them to get clean away. This is a situation that “will fester and cause problems in the future”. Of this there is no doubt. Cllr Rogers stated that he would write to the Welsh Audit Office to request that they change their position.

The Welsh Audit Office stated that these are matters for the County Council’s Audit Committee to sort out.

It is worth noting that the members of the Audit Committee who first publicly voiced their concern over recent issues have been changed. So there appears to be little hope of that committee now doing anything to injure the accused Ruling Group.

N.B.It cost the Public Purse £250,000 to remove Mr Derrick Jones from his post and now the new Assembly-imposed Managing Director, David Bowles, will cost £300,000 in the long run.

Anglesey has no contingency funds and no flexibility at all to deal with the severe economic challenges that now confront it.


I’LL KEEP YOU UPDATED

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BEAUMARIS RESIDENTS REQUEST TO ANGLESEY COUNCIL FOR A RETURN TO VICTORIAN BATHING

October 14 2009


It was very satisfying to see the word ‘Mooted’ on the front page of the Holyhead & Anglesey Mail this week. That which was ‘mooted’ was a proposal to develop the old outdoor bathing area off the beautiful Beaumaris Green.

It appears that local residents have been conversing on this proposal for the last six months. This came as a big surprise to the County Council’s Property Portfolio Holder. Images of ‘finger on the pulse’ and holding a tin of beans spring to mind.

However, the news is that there now exists the potential for the County Council to purchase the old baths from the estate of the recently deceased Mr Peter Bailey. It has been mooted that following such a purchase that the baths be passed over to the Beaumaris Town Council.

This is an exciting proposal, though as Cllr Schofield rightly pointed out, severe financial constraints on the County Council do make it difficult. The baths were once owned by the County Council who sold them for a £20,000 profit in the past. A professional evaluation has put a price of £15,000 on the now very dilapidated facility.

I imagine that were the Beaumaris Town Council able to obtain the deeds for the baths that they would be in a position to apply for grants to develop the site as a further tourist attraction to the town.

Beaumaris is a beautiful character town with engaging shops and tourist attractions like the 12th Century Edwardian Castle and the Beaumaris Gaol. These are fabulous historic tourist assets that have helped re-generate its popularity as a tourist centre with a unique sensibility. Also, it is probably the best town in the whole of North Wales for ice-creams.

It would be a delightful addition to the town green; however, seeing that the Welsh Assembly Government has today announced that Anglesey will only receive a 1% increase in its financial budget this year. The County Council has no contingency funds available as the coffers are now empty.

Any money that the County Council spends on this project would have to be drawn from other Council Departments. At present, there are a couple of higher priorities than purchasing the old Beaumaris Victorian baths, such as Social Service and Education to name just two.

I’LL KEEP YOU BRIEFED ON DEVELOPMENTS WITH THIS POTENTIALLY CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION


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ANGLESEY COUNTY COUNCILLOR RECEIVES DEATH THREAT

October 14 2009


On Anglesey the dish best served cold is usually a good green salad and a decent Chablis. No longer.

In a Full Council Meeting last week, Councillor Barry Durkin, who represents Llanbedrgoch (between Benllech and Pentraeth on your map), declared that he had received a phonecall threatening him with assassination.

Apparently, the threat was issued to him by a member of the public who resented the Councillors’ decision to oppose a local planning application.

Councillor Durkin has discussed the promissory missive with the Leader of the Council, Councillor Clive McGregor and it has been brought to the attention of North Wales Police. Councillor McGregor is a former Police Inspector, so he’s the right man to approach.

There is no news to date of anyone being arrested, though the identity of would-be assassin must be known to Councillor Durkin.

It is alleged that the person who had had his application refused had received consent on making an appeal. It is further alleged that the person in question was pursuing costs of his appeal and this appears to have pushed him too far.


Of course, it is wholly inappropriate for a councillor or any member of the public to receive such vile threats. There again, they are all collectively used to character assassination. This is both normal and perfectly acceptable in the current Anglesey local political zeitgeist.

I do not think there is a single decision-making body in the entire County Council that has its decisions and motives questioned more than the Planning Committee, which has a bit of a recent record for departures from policy.

If the application is for a site residential development then there is an enormous amount of money up for grabs and all manner of games are played out as part of the planning applications. A refusal can give quite serious offence.

So people do tend get very passionate indeed and if an enemy or development applicant is rewarded consent then it is ‘A Typical Fix’. Seeing as the Welsh Assembly Government Planning inspectorate is the final arbiter, then this very unlikely indeed.

Councillor Durkin recently declared that he was going to stand against Albert Owen MP in the forthcoming General Election, so I suppose there’s no such thing as Bad Press. By that I do not dismiss the seriousness of the threat made against him.

You can’t please all the people all the time – which is a habit the County Councillors cannot seem to break at the moment.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose and all that.

I’LL KEEP YOU BRIEFED ON DEVELOPMENTS WITH THIS POTENTIALLY CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION


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MORE CRISIS FOR ANGLESEY LEISURE CENTRES

October 9 2009


You’ll remember from my other news items that the future of Anglesey's leisure centres remains balanced on a knife edge as the County Council continue to review their plans for closure.

It looks like Holyhead leisure centre may well be closed temporarily if the County Council decides that it will spend money to make long overdue essential repairs.

The lack of regular investment or programmed maintenance since their opening in the mid-seventies has finally brought about its collapse. Something predicted for years by simple common sense.

Common sense? That's an interesting notion. I suppose that social duty and pubic service are also two good notions. Hmm.

Among many of the woes facing the centre is the dangerous asbestos found in the swimming pool changing room ceiling, which must be removed and replaced with a more suitable substance.

The high windows in the swimming hall are now potentially presenting a danger to users. Between the water leaking through the roof that has caused the asbestos to become a serious problems, the windows above the swimming pools and the high level windows in the fitness rooms, there is an estimated repair bill of £250,000 needing to be paid.

It’s not as if this is the first recent problem. Go back to 2006 and some of you will remember the pitter-patter of tiny feet as rats scuttled around the pool area having come in through the doors left to decay.

Holyhead Leisure Centre will not be the only facility that is suffering from decades of neglect. It’s all a matter of time before the rest begins to unravel due to the County Council’s persistent neglect.



CRISIS LEADERSHIP BY THE COUNCILLORS?


So next Tuesday (October 13 2009) the Council will sit down to sagely consider the predicament that now faces them. If they vote with their social conscience, then they will give the nod and reparation work will begin on the fitness room windows and doors during November.

January will see the swimming pool closed while the asbestos problem is tackled and the high windows repaired or replaced.

That would happen in the real world. But Hang On! this is the same group of people who voted for closure of most of the leisure facilities on Anglesey. This was done to a great deal of public pillorying. What will be the rationale for the decision-making?

They have made it pretty obvious that they want closure and many believe that the review period until January 2011 was reluctantly agreed upon because of near riots by young mothers and the display of the usual integrity and political courage.

So, what do they do? This is surely manna for heaven. They could close the leisure centre temporarily and then forget to open it. Not unknown. They have to come up with £250,000 from a very tight budget.

They could reach into their emergency, contingency fund that they have built up over the years like any half-decent Council. Sorry they can’t because its empty and they haven’t got a bean to spare. All those good years! Where’s the money gone?

That sounds like another potential reason for closure rather than the refurbishment that all the leisure centres desperately need.

Tuesday is a day of major decisions for Anglesey County Council. They won’t defer until a future date, will they? Surely not?


TO BE CONTINUED ...






ANGLESEY LEISURE CENTRES SAVED FROM CLOSURE

September 17 2009


It’s amazing what 40 Anglesey County Councillors can achieve acting before a righteously angry band of people in a public Council meeting.

The vote was 39-1 in favour of extending the period of review of the leisure facilities on Anglesey form three months up to 15 months.

A bit different to the quiet meeting last month when Independents, Plaid Cymru and the conservatives voted against a common need.

In a public meeting those individuals who the Council Executive who had voted to close the pools all voted to keep them open. All except Councillor Scoffield, that is.

Council Leader, Clive McGregor stated that a decision on the leisure centres would have to be made before the Budget of 2011/12.


The Finance Director the County Council stated that hard decisions had to be confronted sooner or later, including primary school and library closures.

Mr David Elis-Williams pointed to a reduced budgetary settlement from the Welsh Assembly Government.


I have reported previously that there has been an almighty public reaction to the naive politics and miscalculated the reaction of the people of Anglesey.

It was the mothers who would really have felt the loss of the pools and leisure centres. Leisure facilities are essential family assets. Mum and Dad go to the gym or shopping on the weekend while the kids spend the morning splashing around with friends. Then lunch as a family.


In a meeting in Amlwch the previous evening, Ieuan Wyn Jones, the Island’s Assembly Member, received a roasting.

Under direct public questioning Mr Jones revealed that he had not met to discuss this major issue with his Plaid Cymru councillors who had voted for closure. He had not supported his constituents and played politics by sitting on the fence.

The Labour councillors and concerned Independents had acted with the support of the Member of Parliament, Albert Owen, to fight and to win.

Now, all have to watch the County Council Executive Committee carefully in case there is a quiet discussion somewhere down the road. It’s how they nearly succeeded this time.






September 9 2009 - Anglesey Council Challenged by Commonwealth Gold Medalist and World Champion on Leisure Centres Decisions

A champion athlete has created a new furore by challenging the County Council's motives and long term agenda on the Island's leisure centres.

Ex-Army captain and Welsh National Weightlifting Coach Raymond Williams is furious that the County Council has turned its back on the opportunity to create an Olympic training facility on Anglesey.

This, he has stated, comes after a despertaely short-sighted decision to not even make a declaration of interest in holding the Island Games. If these prestigious games had been attracted to Anglesey, then the investment in raising the standard of local facilities would have occurred as a matter of course.

It adds great insult to injury that the County Council now wishes to close leisure facilities.

As part of his expression of committment to the young in Holyhead and Anglesey, Raymond Williams has dedicated enormous efforts to highlighting and actively leading projects to encourage physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. Encouraging parents into sport makes it a natural path for youngsters.

I believe that Raymond Williams is livid that the Executive Group either lacks a healthy foresight or just cannot see the broader significance of its decision. Maybe, it just doesn't care.

It is in a financial black hole because it has spent all its money, even emergency contingency funds. It seems that they are taking desperate action lacking coherency or intelligence.

It has been mooted that the decision to hold a review is merely a ruse to take the matter away from a planned Full Council meeting due very soon. Here, it would receive a very public lambasting from opposition Members.

It could be further mooted that this proposed review could be part of Procedural mischief that would deny the opposition the opportunity to debate and take a damaging registered vote in the said meeting. Two Holyhead County Councillors support closure. They are J. V. Owen and Trefor Lloyd Hughes.

Raymond Williams served his country for more than twenty years, is a highly respected World Quality Coach and very highly regarded as a decent man used to standing up for others. Dismissing this individual does an injury to many people of equally good standing who respect him.



Also, the Portfolio Holder on the Executive, Cllr Goronwy Parry appears to making irrational statments about the need for closure. His intemperate comments have really raised the temperature, as they do not seem to be based on a sensible analysis of the reality or the politics of the situation. I'm afraid it's been a bit of an embarrassment to watch.

FURTHER ALSO, with a General Election coming up next year both the Plaid Cymru and Conservative Prospective candidate have decided to follow the populist trail by calling for the Leisure Centres to be saved. Interesting amusing: the Plaid Cymru and Conservative County Councillors were the most prominent Members in proposing, voting for and being defiant in the face of serious public oppostion.

Neither Candidate mentions this in their literature.


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September 8 2009 - Light at the end of the Tunnel for the Island's Sports Centres

Councillor Clive McGregor and his fellow councillors on the County Council Executive Committee appear to have bowed to the immense public opposition to the closure of a number of the Island's swimming pools and leisure centres.

Apparently there will be a moratorium for three months on a final decision while a business assessment is made of the existing facilities.

Hundreds of members of the public, the Island's MP and also opposition councillors have stated that the decision is short-sighted and will prove detrimental to the health and well-being of residents in Amlwch, Beaumaris, Llangefni and Holyhead.

It is a fact that no public leisure centre has ever made a penny of profit; however, one reason offered by the Executive is that the cost of refurbishing these centres would be prohibitive.

A counter-argument offered is that had the Council invested in a regular maintenance programme then the condition of certain centres would not have deteriorated to such a degree.

It is the mothers with young children who have after-school swimming lessons and weekend swimming who are angriest.

It has also been showed that each of these leisure centres is a wonderful asset for holiday visitors with children looking for something to do on a rainy day. Tourism would be a major loser.

The speed with which the Executive has backed down indicates that they have finally realised that they are servants of the public after all. Not its master.

I am loathe to offer such a cynical report from the Isle of Anglesey, but that's the way it is at the moment.

More to follow - undoubtedly.


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A Good News Story.

3 September 2009

£5.6 million is to be invested in developing tourism and enhancing Anglesey's coastline.


If you have been having a good look about my Western Beaches, More Western Beaches and Eastern Beaches pages, you will know about the Island's beautiful coastal regions and beaches.

The local tourism industry is worth somewhere in the region of £180million a year when you gather together all the individual spending and on-going local taxes on people with second homes and such.

Now that Rio Tinto/Kaiser have decided to walk away from a £48million package by the Westminster Government, 540 jobs have been lost as Anglesey Aluminium closes at the end of September 2009.





Anglesey SlipwayThe first structural investment will see enhancements to the boat slipways at Bull Bay, Amlwch Port and Menai Bridge’s Porth y Wrach.

The Island's coastal waters have long been popular with boating and water sports enthusiasts. Rhosneigr is world renowned as a wind- and kite-surfing location.


Beaumaris, Holyhead and Cemaes Bay are regular stops for countless coastal yachts-persons.

This is excellent news and adds to the ambition of the Môn & Menai Project. The finding sources are the EU, Welsh Assembly Government and the County Council.





We have the expertise to make it work:

Cemaes Bay Coastal Walk

  • Go back a couple of years and you have the development of the Islands outstanding Coastal Path by Menter Môn.

    This agency is an extension of the County Council that was created in order to act as an umbrella body for the distribution of an initial £6million EU Objective One money on environmental and community projects.

  • It must be known far and wide by now that Menter Môn was instrumental in creating two new habitats for the indigenously extinct Red Squirrel. One habitat is in the Newborough Forest behind Llanddwyn and the other in Pentraeth Forest.

    We owe an enormous debt to Menter Môn’s fabulous team for their vision, perseverance and for doing something quite rare around here - finishing the job.




    So now, we look forward to seeing concrete being poured and brand new structures being enjoyed by local people - as well as the hundreds of thousands of people who stay or pass through every year.










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