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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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Llanelli: Stop notice issued for school planning application

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A CONTROVERSIAL planning application for a new 480-spaced school in Llanelli has been issued a stop notice by the Welsh Government.
Carmarthenshire County Council is proposing to build a new £9.1m school on Llanerch Fields in Llanelli and were looking to determine the planning application in the coming weeks. Welsh Government will now decide whether to call in the application or not.
The new school would accommodate 420 primary and 60 nursery pupils, set over two floors with larger classrooms with integrated IT facilities, a multi-purpose hall and specialist provision for pupils with additional learning needs.
Over recent years there has been much debate in the area on the choice of site for the new school with campaigners arguing that they support a new school, but object against Llanerch fields being built upon. Last year an attempt to get the land designated as a village green was turned down.
In 2017, Ysgol Dewi Sant as the first Welsh medium primary school to be provided by a local authority celebrated its 70th birthday.
Councillor Rob James, local member for Lliedi, stated “From day one I have raised concerns that the Council’s site choice and planning process opened the Council up to the possibility of the Welsh Government calling in the planning application. It is clear that these concerns were not misplaced and there is now a really chance that it will be. 

“As a local Councillor, a school governor and a parent, I am passionate about the need for a new school for the pupils of Ysgol Dewi Sant and it is important that local pupils get the benefits of a 21st century school.
“I will now be working with Council Officers to ensure that contingency plans are prepared in case the Welsh Government state that the planning application does not comply with national planning policy.
“I will also work with parents, pupils, residents and interested parties are able to engage with the Welsh Government during this process.”

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Third annual Burry Port Raft Race is eagerly awaited

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THE THIRD ANNUAL BURRY PORT RAFT RACE, organised by Burry Port couple, Craig and Isabel Goodman, will be held on Saturday (July 27).

The event which is held in Burry Port Harbour, raises much needed funds for both Burry Port RNLI and a children’s football academy and primary school the couple support in The Gambia.

The day launches at 12pm with stands, food stalls and children’s inflatable games and rides and these will be available until 5pm. You’ll also have a chance to meet the crews, who’ll be busy putting the final touches to their rafts.

Rafts launch at 3pm, followed by a presentation ceremony, including prizes for first raft over the line, first raft to sink and best dressed raft.

Craig said: ” A huge thank you goes to all our sponsors, including overall sponsor Dawsons, along with continued sponsorship from Celtic Couriers, Parker Plant Hire, Burns Pet Nutrition, Burry Port Co-Op, Llanelli Star, LBS Builders Merchants, Burry Port Marina, First Choice Flooring and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council.

For any further information about the event, please contact 07825 842981.

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Compensation offered after FSCS declares Llanelli firm in default

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CONSUMERS could get back money they have lost as a result of their dealings with a failed regulated firm in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. The firm is Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited formerly Assura Protect, Room 1, 7 Meadows Bridge, Parc Menter, Cross Hands, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA14 6RA.

The firm was declared in default in June 2019 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

FSCS is the UK’s statutory compensation scheme that protects customers of authorised financial services firms that carry out certain regulated activities. A declaration of default means FSCS is satisfied a firm is unable to pay claims for compensation made against it. This paves the way for customers of that firm to make a claim for compensation with FSCS.

Alex Kuczynski, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at FSCS, said: “FSCS steps in to protect consumers around the UK when authorised financial services firms go bust. This vital service, which is free to consumers, protects deposits, insurance, investments, home finance and debt management. We want anyone who believes they may be owed money as a result of their dealings with this firm to get in touch, as we may be able to help you.”

Since it began in 2001, FSCS has helped more than 4.5m people, paying out more than £26bn in compensation.

If you wish to make a claim with FSCS against Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited, you may be able to do so using FSCS’s online claims service at https://claims.fscs.org.uk Or you can contact its Customer Services Team on 0800 678 1100 or 020 7741 4100

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