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2600 empty homes in Carmarthenshire

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COUNCILS across Wales are under pressure to return empty housing stock to use.

Ad Hoc Property Management reports that there are currently 43,028 homes lying empty in Wales, 18,000 of which have been empty for more than six months. Rhondda Cynon Taff is the worst area with 4,195 while Swansea, Cardiff and Conwy don’t fall far behind.

There are 2,667 empty homes in Carmarthenshire.

The company says that, with there being approximately 60,500 households on waiting lists for affordable housing in Wales, these empty homes are simply a wasted resource in the wake of a national housing shortage.

Ad Hoc claims that opportunities exist to regenerate empty properties to provide affordable homes, with the benefit for property owners being that tenanted properties are unlikely to suffer from the consequences of anti-social behaviour such as squatting and vandalism.

A spokesperson told us: ‘The Welsh government is committed to building 20,000 new affordable homes by 2021, and while that will be beneficial, something still needs to be done about all the empty homes. If more property owners were aware of the benefits of utilising their empty spaces as temporary affordable housing, then they would not only save themselves the headache of petty criminals and the cost of damage repairs, but they would also be helping to alleviate some of the strain put on Wales by the housing shortage’.

Under the Housing Act 2004, councils have the power to use Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) as a last resort to bring unoccupied properties back into use.

Long-term empty properties pose a problem in two ways; they tend to decrease the quality of life in their area, by becoming magnets for vandalism and other antisocial behaviours, and they indirectly contribute to the problem of homelessness by limiting the pool of available housing.

Carmarthenshire’s County Council is taking proactive steps to bring vacant properties back into use.

As long ago as the Budget of 2014, then Council Leader Kevin Madge reported on the Council’s intention to secure vacant residential properties and bring them back into use for the private rented sector.

Four years on and the Executive Board under current leader Emlyn Dole established an arm’s length housing corporation to acquire properties and land for redevelopment and new development.

The authority adopted its first empty property strategy in light of the Housing Act from 2005-2009 and has followed that up with a succession of further plans, including a review of the process in 2015.

The number of empty properties brought back into use has steadily increased year on year.

Carmarthenshire’s target for returning empty properties during 2016/2017 was 160 properties and 174 properties were returned to use.

With a dedicated Empty Property Officer post, coordinating the Local Authority approach to empty properties, the Council is making active use of enforcement actions under different elements of its statutory powers, including the active use of Enforced Sales and the offer of financial assistance to owners of long-term vacant properties where they can be traced. The council also offers financial incentives through property management and leasing products, whilst offering affordable housing through an in-house Social Lettings Agency, Gosod Siml.

The waste of empty homes where a need exists has been described by Jonathan Edwards MP as ‘obscene’.

“There are a number of approaches which can and should be explored. In the case of Carmarthenshire, I know the Council takes a proactive approach with a dedicated team of staff who assist people in bringing their properties back into use,” the MP said.

Conservative government welfare cuts continue to fuel the rise in homelessness as figures show a staggering 10,884 Welsh households were assessed as homeless in the year 2016-2017.

A report by researchers from Sheffield Hallam University into the Welsh Government’s Houses into Homes scheme reported positive feedback from both property owners and local authorities regarding its operation. However, that report also revealed that the majority of owners who responded to a questionnaire about bringing a property back into use with the help of a Houses into Homes loan had acquired the property as an investment.

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Outreach Van stationed as police commissioner responds to ‘community concenrs’

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POLICE and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn has instigated additional partnership working in Llanelli in response to local concerns relating to substance misuse.

Dyfed Powys Police is proudly teaming up with Dyfed Drug and Alcohol Service (DDAS), Carmarthenshire County Council and CrimeStoppers Fearless campaign in order to engage with members of our community on a new outreach van, in order to support and signpost those in need during the festive period.

Each agency will be travelling together to Station Road in Llanelli in a new outreach van on Thursday December 12 and Monday December 16, and will be parked opposite the Premier store between 5pm and 9pm on both days.

Funded by Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, DDAS will be offering:

•          BBV Testing for HIV, Hep B and C

•          Referral into DDAS for treatment

•          Naloxone kit dispensing

•          Harm reduction advice

•          Drug and alcohol education via drug box, beer googles, scratch and sniff cards

•          Information on safer alcohol consumption over Christmas

Officers from the council’s Homes and Safer Communities department will be in attendance to give information and advice on a range of issues including the regeneration plans for the Tyisha ward and how residents can have their say. They will also be able to advise on various housing options; and people will be able to discuss in confidence any housing matters they may have, for example, in relation to anti-social behaviour or noise nuisance.

The council’s Communities for Work team will be offering:

•          Support to develop your skills and gain experience

•          Acquire the training and qualifications you need

•          Find the right job

•          Basic IT support

•          Support with CVs and job applications

•          Volunteer and work placement opportunities

•          Health and wellbeing support

CrimeStoppers Fearless campaign workers, who are a dedicated young person’s charity which support young people in giving information about crime 100% anonymously, will also be on board the van and keen to engage with any young person in the area.  They will be educating youths about County Lines and the impact crime can have on their lives.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn stated: “I hope that this innovative delivery style of a dynamic outreach approach to substance misuse can become the norm in Llanelli in order to reduce the harm to individuals and the community. I continually listen to the communities I represent and respond.”

Dyfed Powys Police officers will also be on hand at different intervals to offer crime prevention advice and listen to and provide help and support for any issues you experience in your community.

Chief Inspector Chris Neve of Dyfed-Powys Police said: “I am grateful to the Police and Crime Commissioner and our partners for their support in this new initiative, which I hope will be seen as a valuable opportunity for the communities of Llanelli to engage with the services involved. I encourage anyone who requires support and advice from any of the agencies, or would just like to chat with any of them, to come along and visit the van on either date. This really is an important opportunity – and we all as a collective want to help as many people in need as possible.”

The council’s Head of Homes and Safer Communities Jonathan Morgan said: “This is an excellent opportunity for the community to speak to our officers first-hand about any issues they may have or any advice they may need on housing matters. We have exciting plans to transform the Tyisha ward and the community is a big part of that, we want to make Tyisha a better place to live and work for everyone.”

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Llanelli Councillor Resigns from Plaid Cymru

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SHOCK ANNOUNCEMENT JUST DAYS BEFORE THE GENERAL ELECTION

Jordan Randall, Llanelli Rural Councillor for Swiss Valley says he has resigned from Plaid Cymru because he is disappointed with the choice of Plaid candidate again for the forthcoming General Election.

The full statement, sent to The Llanelli Herald today: “This is not a decision that I’ve taken lightly but one which has been a long time coming. 
“I’ve had the privilege of being a Llanelli Rural Councillor in recent years to try my very best in making a difference where I can. I now look forward to continuing this work as an Independent Councillor for Swiss Valley, which will always be my priority. 


“I’ve been very disappointed with the choice of Plaid candidate again for the forthcoming General Election. If the party is to make any progress in the Town, then it needs a candidate who is local to the area and actually understands the everyday issues which face our communities. We do not need someone who is completely out of touch and unfortunately just sees Llanelli as a stepping stone to advance their own career. 


“Ongoing personal vendettas now seem to be the most important thing for Plaid Cymru at a local level. I no longer recognise the party. The party already lost a number of lifelong members in recent years due to the negativity locally. Astonishingly, they have also taken the decision to no longer have an all year round office presence within the Town. 
“Calls for national leadership have simply gone unanswered, with new leader Adam Price unwilling to intervene in any way to try to achieve a way forward.


“I am also not happy and have been for some time with Plaid’s position on Brexit as they are simply ignoring the wishes of the people of Llanelli as the Town overwhelmingly voted to leave in the referendum, a decision which whether people voted to Remain or Leave ought to be one which is respected. 


“Party politics is broken but I remain committed to campaigning to improve our public services, helping to sort out any concerns and supporting ideas which will strengthen and grow our community.”

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Plaid’s pro-EU Saturday push in Trimsaran

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DUBBED Pro-EU Saturday, the 30th November in Trimsaran saw the local girl and MP candidate Mari Arthur, descend on her home village of Trimsaran, to draw attention to the £680million of European Union (EU) funds that Wales receives every single year.


The only Remain candidate in Llanelli, Mari Arthur was proudly joined by Plaid Cymru regional AM Helen Mary Jones, Wales MEP Jill Evans, County Councillor Kim Broom, and a whole host of supporters, to speak with as many people as possible in the community ahead of the General Election on 12th December.


Plaid Cymru candidate Mari Arthur said: “I was thrilled to be joined in Trimsaran by so many people to talk about why EU funds have been vital for the area. We are a net beneficiary, which means that, as a nation, we get £245milion more than we pay into the EU.


“Trimsaran Leisure Centre itself is a building that received £180k from EU funds and is now the beating heart of the community. It’s great to see how this is still having a positive impact on people living in the village and further afield.”


West Wales and the Valleys is a “less developed region”, which means it is one of the “poorest regions” in Europe, as its GDP is less than 75% of the EU average. This means that £680million of EU funds comes to Wales, in the form of:


Structural Funds which amounts to just over £4 billion in extra funds to Wales since 2000, including £180,000 towards the build of Trimsaran Leisure Centre Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with £200million a year – almost a third of all EU funding in Wales – providing vital support to 16,0000 farms in Wales.


Other Funds that help support everything else, like the arts and biodiversity. Speaking from Trimsaran, Jill Evans MEP, said: “It’s wonderful to be here today in Trimsaran and to see the fantastic support on the doorstep for Plaid Cymru, and the only local candidate on the Llanelli ticket: Mari Arthur. It’s very heartening!


“Obviously, like elsewhere in Wales, there’s a real feeling of frustration on the doorstep in relation to Brexit – among those who voted to leave AND those who voted to remain three years ago. Plaid Cymru is proudly Remain, because we believe Brexit – particularly a No Deal Brexit – would be catastrophic for Wales.


“Ask yourselves this: will Westminster Government honour this level of funding, post-Brexit? It is almost certainly a No. Vote Plaid.”


Helen Mary Jones AM, also at Trimsaran Leisure Centre, said: “It was wonderful to be at Trimsaran and to have a glimpse into what the future could be like: with Kim Broom speaking up for the community at Plaid Cymru-led Carmarthenshire Council, myself at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, Jill in Brussels and then Mari at Westminster. It would be wonderful to have a team in place that could deliver comprehensive support to the community.”
The Pro-EU day highlighted the positive impact that EU funding has had on the lives of people and communities across the Llanelli constituency.

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