Earlier this week I asked the transport secretary what the Welsh Government was doing to ensure we didn’t see a repeat of this summer’s bus service shambles when GHA Coaches went to the wall. A number of services in the Wrexham area are now at risk as RJs of Wem, a successor company to GHA Coaches, has had its licence revoked. This is terrible news for communities in rural parts of Wrexham that rely on a variety of services to get to work, to college as well as to shop, visit relatives or attend hospital appointments.
The situation could have been anticipated and it raises serious questions regarding due diligence before these bus contracts are handed out. It appears that the service will stop on December 19 but a replacement tender could take as long as three months to introduce. I will continue to press for Wrexham Council and the Welsh Government to come up with a temporary service to bridge that gap.
- Another important public service that is at risk is Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, which faces closure in the New Year unless £50,000 from Wrexham Council is forthcoming. The council-run leisure centre closed in 2014 but was re-opened later that year by a community-run cooperative. There have been difficulties, not least because vital maintenance work had been neglected by the council prior to closure. £50,000 is a large amount of money, especially after six years of austerity that has seen public spending squeezed for a narrow and failed political ideology. But contrast that with the £450,000 the council was spending on the leisure centre prior to closure and it seems like a bargain.
Plas Madoc attracts 400,000 people a year – it’s a huge asset to the area and it promotes council priorities in terms of health, well-being and keeping fit. As I know from taking my four children there, it’s also a lot of fun and would be hugely missed by many. I call on the council to do the right thing and ensure the centre continues to offer this service into 2017.
- Water services are another matter of concern for me at the moment. Severn Trent’s takeover bid for Dee Valley Water puts local jobs, local suppliers and the quality of service at risk. This 150-year-old company will cease to exist if it is taken over by Severn Trent. It also means Dee Valley customers in Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire could face higher bills in the long run.
Along with Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, I’ve challenged ministers in the Assembly to take a stronger stand on this matter and I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting many of the staff at the Packsaddle HQ of Dee Valley.
It’s clear that this takeover is worrying for them personally and also raises much wider questions about whether we should allow this important natural resource to be run from Coventry, where Severn Trent has its HQ. My clear belief is that all Welsh water services should be operated from Wales and for the benefit of people in Wales. The fate of the company will become clearer at a shareholders’ emergency meeting in Wrexham on January 12 – I will continue to press for the company to remain as a distinct and separate water supplier here in Wales.