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Reserves row re-ignites

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C A R M A R T H E N S H I R E COUNTY COUNCIL has issued a lengthy press release that seeks to explain the council’s position in respect of the use of its reserves. “We appreciate why people were questioning why we are keeping £122m in reserves, which is forecasted to be £96m by the end of March, and then cutting our services,” said Cllr Jeff Edmunds. “But we cannot simply dip into these reserves, the vast majority of which is ring-fenced for a specific use.”

Cllr Edmunds continued: “Put simply – to compare with an average household – reserves are like our savings account which we use if we need to make home improvements, fix the car etc, and our revenue budget which funds services, are like our current account which pays our bills. If we raid our piggy bank because we can’t afford to pay our bills it will be depleted and when we need money for anything there will be none there. Reserves are for one-off expenditure or projects, it is unsustainable and would be a reckless use of funds to take money from them for day to day living.”

One Independent Group councillor suggested to The Herald: “The question begged by his (Cllr Edmunds’) remarks is whether he thinks it is better to have a million in the bank and sit in darkness because the electricity and gas have been disconnected.”

Chris Moore, the council’s head of financial services, was less absolutist than Cllr Edmunds; however, his words were still cautionary: “Reserves are set aside to meet future potential liabilities, and any use of the reserves for any purpose other than what it is earmarked for, should be considered with extreme caution.”

Leader of the council, Cllr Kevin Madge, said: “We want to be very clear about our use of reserves. We are planning for a sustainable future. Raiding our ‘piggy bank’ to see us through this financial year simply stores up problems for the future. It would be irresponsible to put ourselves at such risk.”

However, Cllr Madge’s view on the reserves and the irresponsibility of using them was not shared by Plaid Cymru’s group leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole.

He told The Herald: “It seems to me that what is being said about the reserves on the one hand is totally inconsistent with the way the executive board managed to approve switching £3m of reserves around not that long ago. My deputy, Dai Jenkins, attended a recent meeting of the executive board at which the board nodded through moving £3m around the reserves at Chris Moore’s proposal without any questions being asked. It worked out at a £1m a second to deal with the whole thing. Of course officers need input into decisions, nobody can dispute that, but they should only be advising councillors, not directing policy. That is what the executive board and the council are there to do. If you have a weak executive and strong officers it is a recipe for disaster. Our view that we should look at what we can do with the reserves cannot have come as a surprise to the council leader. He was told by Leighton Andrews – a Welsh Labour minister – that councils across Wales should look at what they can do with those reserves. That letter was sent in November. The council’s reserves are an essential part of the budget process. Those reserves are public money and should be used for the benefit of Carmarthenshire people. It really should have rung a bell in someone’s mind at County Hall that the reserves would need to be examined. It follows that they should be scrutinised. At the moment there is £15-20m sitting in a reserve just called ‘other’. I suppose there could be reserves marked ‘other-other-other’ just to make clear what they are for! Against a background of austerity, we should have looked at the reserves as the Welsh Government suggested. The way the council has dealt with the whole issue of reserves smacks of scare-mongering.”

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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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