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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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Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman

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THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.

Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.

Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.

Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.

“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.

Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.

The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.

Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.

Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.

He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.

He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.

A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.

A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.

He is married with two children and three grandchildren.

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‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’

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LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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MP and AM call for Trostre certainty after merger fails

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LOCAL ASSEMBLY MEMBER Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said “This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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