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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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Laugharne Luxury Lodge plan hits pothole

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THE OWNERS of a luxury lodge development in Laugharne face potential enforcement action from Carmarthenshire County Council. The company is alleged to have built a substantial roadway across fields near the development without planning permission.
Milkwood Spa, due to launch this autumn, is located on a site with a chequered planning history. It is located in a prominent position overlooking Carmarthen Bay and the village of Laugharne.
The current developers, UK Luxury Lodges, acquired the site from its previous owners after their attempts to get development going on the site stalled.
UK Luxury Lodges says the development will be the first resort of its kind in the region; welcoming guests after an investment upwards of £30 million.
Laugharne and nearby Pendine are popular tourist destinations, but with a track record of insecure, poorly paid employment. Speaking to us earlier this year Sharon Hurley, a director of the company behind the project, told us that she hoped the lodge and spa development would help create up to 110 new jobs in the area.
Past developments and proposals for developments have run into problems concerning their environmental impact and their effect on the local landscape.
A previous owner obstructed and extinguished a public footpath. The footpath was not relocated. No enforcement action took place over its loss.
Concerns also exist about the disturbance to a nearby scheduled monument and the area around the lodges and spa. Ironically for a project using the ‘Milkwood’ brand, developers have received local criticism for removing a significant number of mature trees to facilitate the development and damaging the landscape which is one of the locality’s chief selling points.
Issues of traffic, local parking solutions, heavy plant using residential roads, and blocked footpaths also exercise some residents.
Before we published our original article in August, we carried out an extensive search of the site’s planning history.
The County Council’s planning portal recorded no objections to the location’s development either when initial outline planning was granted for developing the location by its previous owner, or when it was acquired by the current owners in 2013 when reserved matters were dealt with under application number W/30157.
Concerning the wider conservation questions, one letter, about the linked application number W/33378, is blank on the Planning Portal.
We are assured, however, objections were raised.
A conservation area application had been submitted and approved and that the statutory consultees Cadw, Dyfed Archaeological Trust raised no objections to the development in so far as it affected the scheduled monument on the site.
When we questioned Ms Hurley about those prior concerns about development, she told us: “Creating a property that honours and celebrates the existing natural environment is so important to me and the team is working closely with local planning authorities to ensure the conservation of the surrounding historic environment.”
However, earlier this week, The Herald received a series of photos which show a permanent roadway being dug out across green fields. Machinery still being used on the works is plainly visible in some of the photos, as is the extent of the hardcore base and gravel laid over the top in some sections.
No planning permission exists for such development. Whether Carmarthenshire County Council, Cadw or the Dyfed Archaeological Trust would have been quite so supportive had they been aware of plans to dig a roadway across a green-field site in a prominent and sensitive landscape is open to question.
We asked Carmarthenshire County Council to comment on the roadway’s construction.
Head of Planning Llinos Quelch said: “We have been alerted to potentially unauthorised works on this site and we are dealing with it as an enforcement matter. Investigations will continue and appropriate action taken.”

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Zoe Evans, Llanelli painter and decorator, is British Apprentice of the Year

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Zoe Evans, a 21 year old painter and decorator from Llanelli, has been named the GB Apprentice of the Year and Welsh Apprentice of the Year at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)
Apprenticeship Awards.


The CITB Apprenticeship Awards celebrate the achievements of apprentices and employers across the UK for their commitment and dedication to construction.


The winners were presented with their awards at a ceremony hosted by broadcaster and property entrepreneur, Sarah Beeny. The ceremony took place at Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London (7 November).


Zoe completed a level 2 apprenticeship in painting and decorating, to go onto achieve her Advanced level 3. With her artistic flair, Zoe enjoys the creative aspects of her trade and plans to take a career route in interior design. Zoe’s amazing commitment to being the best she can, has attributed to her becoming an ambassador for women in construction and being the face of the posters across her college, Coleg Sir Gar.


Zoe said: “I’ve loved every single part of my apprentice journey, from the classroom learning to the practical application and the more creative aspects of the job. I want to thank my mentor, Ken MacKay and my employer Ian Williams Ltd. It’s a really good feeling to know that I’ve been
recognised in this way. I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anyone willing to work hard, have goals and go full out to achieve them.”

Jon Davies, CITB Apprenticeship Officer, said: “When Zoe started her apprenticeship we saw her potential so we fast tracked her from level 1 to level 2. It was important for me to make sure she had the right support to reach the heights she is capable of, and she is doing just that. Zoe makes work a brighter place for everyone around her. Her positive attitude and ability makes her a perfect ambassador for women in construction, and I am really pleased this has been recognised with her award.”

Kevin Mcloughlin, CITB board member and founder and Managing Director of Mcloughlin Decorating, said: “Congratulations to Zoe, a clearly dedicated apprentice – it’s great to recognise her hard work. Apprenticeships provide a fast track route into the construction industry. With so many rewarding careers opportunities in construction there is something out there for everyone. I wish Zoe all the best in her career in construction.”

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Police difuse hostage situation in Cae Glas

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AT APPROXIMATELY 10.10pm on Wednesday (Nov 6) police were requested to attend at a property in Cae Glas, Felinfoel, in respect of threats being made by a man within the property to harm himself and a woman inside with a knife.

Officers were deployed immediately, and to ensure the safety of everyone at the scene firearms officers were also deployed.

Chief Inspector Stuart Bell said: “A specialist negotiator worked with the man for a number of hours, bringing the incident to a close at about 1.45am this morning, when the man surrendered himself and was arrested for an outstanding warrant.

“A woman at the scene was also arrested for obstructing police officers. No injuries have been reported.

“There is no threat or danger to anyone outside of the property in the area, and we can reassure residents that there is no need to be concerned as this was an isolated incident.”

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