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Plaid wins battle of the budgets

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THE REVENUE budget for 2016-17 was the subject of an at-times heated debate in this week’s Full Council meeting. After some considerable discussion, the budget put forward by executive member for resources Cllr Dai Jenkins was accepted over an alternative Labour budget which reversed cuts and increased investment in public services at the cost of an extra 2% council tax increase.

Introducing his budget, Cllr Jenkins acknowledged that ‘for a number of years the Local Authority had recognised the problems faced, and seen the need to do things differently’.

He added that, while this was a ‘more supportive and favourable’ settlement than had been predicted, it was forecast that future settlements would be negative.

However, this year’s settlement had allowed the Executive Board ‘to revisit some areas’.

As The Herald previously reported, the report recommended reversing proposed cuts to the education budget.

Cllr Jenkins pointed out that significant feedback had been provided during the budget consultation. “We hope that this demonstrates we are willing to listen,” he added.

Responding, Cllr Deryk Cundy (Lab, Bynea) remarked that for the second year running the Welsh Government had ‘taken the sting’ out of cuts imposed by the Westminster Government.

However, there were still many people in the county living in poverty.

Cllr Cundy also criticised the National Procurement Service and the Apprenticeship Levy ‘which we collect and never see again’.

Referring to the proposed reversal of cuts to the schools budget, he remarked that this still involved a real-terms funding reduction equivalent to the salaries of 30 teachers or 60 support staff.

“These are not surplus to requirements,” he added.

Cllr Cundy proposed adding £400,000 to the staffing budget, reversing a cut of £70,000 to support services for disabled pupils, and giving teachers faced with Early Voluntary Redundancy the option of moving to a different post within the local authority.

Describing Cllr Jenkins’ budget as ‘a curate’s egg – good in parts’ he claimed that it made ‘further cuts on those struggling to make ends meet’.

Other proposals included expanding the Beacon Bursary Scheme, putting £100,000 towards resolving the parking problems and improving the Park and Ride service at Glangwili Hospital, reversing a cut to the street scene budget, and investing an extra £55,000 towards employing multi-skilled grounds and maintenance staff and apprentices.

These changes would be funded through an increase in council tax of 4.5% – 2% more than that proposed by Cllr Jenkins.

“This does mean a slight increase in the council tax, but it will have benefits to those in need – the poorest in the community,” he added.

Labour Leader Cllr Jeff Edmunds pointed out that in opposition, Plaid Cymru had recommended taking £6m from reserves to put in the revenue budget, and added that this budget proposal was a fully costed alternative.

Responding, Cllr Jenkins somewhat pointedly remarked that he was aware that there was a Labour shadow member for the role he had held for the last two years, and it would have perhaps been helpful had someone talked with him during that time, rather than ‘showboating in the chamber’.

Addressing Cllr Cundy’s proposal for education funding, Executive Member Cllr Gareth Jones suggested that there was ‘too much duplication’ happening within schools, which needed to be addressed.

Veering off topic slightly, Council Leader Emlyn Dole suggested that ‘the Labour Party in Llanelli is in enough trouble already without straying into the land of make-believe’.

He added that, during the consultation, JAM (just about managing) families had said ‘something totally different’ regarding any increase in council tax.

Cllr Jenkins, while agreeing with Cllr Cundy’s sentiments regarding the National Procurement Service, pointed out that all Wales’ local authorities would have to agree to opt out – which has not happened.

He was less complimentary regarding the proposals to spend money on the hospital parking problems: “That is Hywel Dda’s problem,” he added, suggesting that it was ‘irresponsible’ to claim otherwise, and that local county councillors and the executive member for transport were working with the Health Board to resolve the issue.

Cllr Anthony Jones, referring to the money found for capital projects, remarked that he ‘could think of 20 million ways of dealing with budget pressures’.

He also pointed out that while the ‘burden on the council tax payer’ had been reduced, from a 3.8% increase even further to a 2.5% increase, it was predicted that council taxes would rise by 4% next year.

He added that not many opposition parties before had come into the chamber with a balanced alternative budget and explained how it could be achieved ‘not taking £6m out of the reserves’.

Cllr Cundy explained that the idea behind improving access to Glangwili was to reduce the pressure on the social services department by ensuring people attended necessary appointments.

“This is a linked budget – I’m not taking away from what you have done, but adding to it,” he concluded.

The Labour amendments were defeated by 19 to 41, and Cllr Jenkins’ original budget was carried.

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How Wales created 19 new field hospitals in less than 8 weeks…

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Across Wales the Welsh Government is supporting the NHS to create new field hospitals and rapidly increase bed capacity.
Health boards have repurposed existing buildings, including the Principality Stadium, a holiday park and even a television studio to provide an additional 6,000 beds.Field hospitals are designed to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic by providing extra bed capacity but they will also help normal hospital services be restarted and support social care services.Last month, the first patients were admitted to Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig at the Principality Stadium, in Cardiff.

Four to six weeks

Here is how Wales almost doubled its bed capacity in less than eight weeks…The time it has taken to nearly double hospital bed capacity in Wales, creating field hospitals across the nation.

19 field hospitals in Wales
This includes the repurposing of Bluestone Holiday Park and Parc y Scarlets in west Wales and Venue Cymru in north Wales.

1,500 beds at the Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig
Making it one of the largest field hospitals in the UK.

Five days
The length of time it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig, which overlapped with the build phase.

3,000
The number of planning hours, involving more than 20 different disciplines, it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig.

£166m
Welsh Government funding for the set up, construction and equipment for field hospitals in Wales.

138,000
The number of pieces of equipment have been provided to help support field hospitals, including beds, imaging equipment, syringe drivers and medicines.

Three North Wales field hospitals have the name Enfys
Meaning rainbow – the symbol of hope and thank you to the NHS during the pandemic.
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7-year-old Mattie from Pembrey takes on home Pen y Fan-tastic challenge for Action for Children

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Plucky Mattie Denman will climb the equivalent of Pen y Fan in the drive at her family home in Pembrey on Friday 22nd May to raise funds for Action for Children.

Mattie (7), has always wanted to climb the highest mountain in South Wales and is unable to currently because of the coronavirus pandemic.  As the family exercise at home every day, she decided she wanted to do the 6-mile equivalent journey there while she waits for the chance to do it for real.  Mattie chose Action for Children as her mother, Sian, works for the charity in Carmarthenshire.

Mattie said: ‘My Mammy works for Action for Children and I want to help as well because lots of families need help.  My older brother and sister help Action for Children, so I asked Mammy if I could do something. We exercise everyday walking up and down the drive and I have always wanted to climb Pen y Fan, but we have never done it.

‘Mammy said I could pretend I am walking it and people will give money to the charity. I said brilliant, that is what I am going to do and I am super excited to do it. I will use mammy’s step counter and I hope I can help children that need support especially because it is so hard for some families because of coronavirus.’

Proud mum and family support practitioner for Action for Children, Sian, added: ‘Mattie has a lovely heart and really wanted to do something and I’m very proud she chose Pen y Fan as her home challenge.  Action for Children has been going the extra mile during the coronavirus pandemic continuing to support vulnerable families through phone and video sessions as well as food and help with the basics from our Emergency Appeal Fund. 

‘It is a tremendously challenging time for our families and every bit of money will directly help those in our communities who need it most.  I hope as many people as possible will donate to Mattie’s brilliant fundraising effort, it’ll make it even more special when we finally get to climb Pen y Fan for real.’

If you want to support Mattie’s Pen y Fan challenge please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mattiesclimb

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Housebuilder launches Coronavirus move in package

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A South Wales housebuilder has launched new incentives which mean homes are ‘ready to move into’ during the Covid-19 crisis – without the need for tradespeople or delivery people.

People in Wales are allowed to move into new build houses during the lockdown – and many people have successfully done so.

However, the limitations of social distancing can add extra stress when it comes to having things like dishwashers, washing machines and turf installed in the new property.

That’s why Persimmon Homes West Wales has launched a new incentive package which gives purchasers the chance to buy a house with white goods and flooring already in place.

Sharon Bouhali, sales director at Persimmon Homes West Wales, said: “Our sales advisors have done a terrific job in talking with customers and guiding them through the buying process remotely, without the need of face-to-face meetings.

“It’s been a huge challenge, but we’ve risen to it – and Persimmon has sold more than 120 properties in South Wales during the lockdown period. We have customers moving into their new homes every week.

“But, understandably, some people are cautious about having too many tradespeople and contractors enter their home, even if they are doing their utmost to abide by social distancing rules.

“That’s why we have launched these new packages which mean people can turn the key, unpack and get on with enjoying their new home.”

The package includes carpets and vinyl throughout, turf in the back garden, sliding wardrobes, integrated fridge freezer, integrated washer/dryer, integrated dishwasher and £500 discount towards removal fees.

The deal is on offer at Glas Y Felin in Bridgend, Parc Yr Onnen in Carmarthen, The Bridles in Llanelli, Peterson Park in Pontyclun, Parc Brynderi in Llanelli and Allt Y Celyn in Rhos.

Persimmon’s marketing suites in Wales remain closed for the time being. Visit www.persimmonhomes.com or call 01792 229800 for details of homes available.

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