As budgets are slashed and vital services stretched, Wrexham Council’s elected member for the Ceiriog Valley, Cllr Trevor Bates, explores how we can take ownership of our resilience.
Residents of the Ceiriog Valley are fortunate to have such beautiful, stimulating surroundings but the remoteness of some areas can bring problems. There are times when we feel vulnerable due to the distance our emergency services need to travel to get to us, so we need to look at ways to be more resilient, protect ourselves and help each other out in these tough times.
Better healthcare, longer life expectancy and higher expectations, all puts pressure on Local Authorities and is pushing some services to the limits.
The relatively new concept of local Councils employing Community Agents has been well received and certainly appears to be bringing communities together in Chirk and the Ceiriog Valley. The Community Agent idea was to engage with those aged over 50 years to improve their quality of life and wellbeing.
Some people, even those living with lots of neighbours, can feel isolated or lonely and the voluntary group Ymestyn undertake a befriending service. Often this can transform the lives of some lonely people just by receiving the occasional visit, a phone call at regular intervals or an afternoon out to share a cuppa or have a natter.
Our broadband and mobile phone signals are good in some areas of the Valley but poor or non-existent in others. I warmly welcome the UK Government’s intention to give every household a legal right to have at least 10 Mbps by 2020.
That said, we do feel let down by BT Openreach that we are not already equipped with High Speed Fibre Broadband as the money they received in grants does not appear to have been well managed.
Pressure on Westminster from our Clwyd South representatives, Ken Skates AM and Susan Elan Jones MP, was enhanced by the fantastic efforts of Mike Rutt in collecting 1,051 signatures, which resulted in a new mast for emergency services and residents being planned near Llanarmon DC. But until this happens we will still have to rely on landlines to call the emergency services from most areas in the upper Ceiriog Valley and somehow manage without the smart meters that are taken for granted by many UK residents for whom mobile signal is not an issue.
Resilience in Action
Medical emergencies in 2017 and 2018 brought into sharp focus just how stretched the Welsh Ambulance Service has become. We all need to remember that an ambulance is for emergency situations only and not to be used simply as a taxi for those who are unable to make their own way to hospital.
It also helps if our houses and streets are clearly marked, you know the grid reference for your home and we give accurate information including regular updates to the 999 call handlers.
Thanks to enlightened Community Councils and the hard work of several community activists, a number of life-saving defibrillators are now in key villages and hamlets along the length of the Valley, from Bronygarth right up to Llanarmon. Learning basic first aid and simple defibrillator training is important. It means we can go one step further by becoming a First Responder.
As for the Police and criminal matters, we all need to be alert to the rising number of telephone fraud scams as well as unsavoury cold callers who prey on the elderly or vulnerable. The people of Chirk and the Ceiriog Valley often excel in keeping an eye out for their neighbours and swift action in reporting anything suspicious is vital in rural communities.
Installing alarms and video cameras to protect our properties will help, as will simply noting the registration numbers of suspicious or unusual vehicles. Of course, this will be pointless unless we are prepared to report incidents to the Police, give our names and make a statement.
In the Ceiriog Valley we have a proud history of standing up for ourselves against would be intruders. Past battles have been fought against Saxon Armies, the Warrington Corporation, wind turbine companies… and most recently Wrexham Council and its education department.
New battles will come in threats to our green lanes, our environment, our upland farmers and heaven knows who and what else in these troubling times. Visioning events, like the one (below) staged by Glyntraian Community Council that I attended 18 months ago, and that hosted by Chirk Town Council in March, help identify community-led solutions.
The need for resilience and for looking after ourselves and neighbours has rarely been greater. Every time we fight a common cause the closer we become, the stronger we become and the more resilient we become.
You can contact Trevor Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org