IN THE WAKE of the article about a ‘littering campaign’ in Carmarthenshire, the Herald was contacted by Paul Morris, the Environmental Enforcement Manager at Carmarthenshire Council. Sadly, because it took Carmarthenshire Council’s Media Centre seven days to forward an email request for information to the person best-placed to answer it, we were unable to incorporate his response to many of the queries that were raised in our article. Because Mr Morris was unable to respond to any of our assertions at the time, here are his views. Mr Morris told us about some of the work that his team carry out: “We have eight Environment Enforcement Officers, who cover all environmental issues in the county including highways problems like abandoned vehicles, and skips and scaffolding on roads. They work in teams of two, so we have one team in Llanelli, one in the north-west, one in the north-east and one in the Gwendraith Valley.”
He added that due to the teams covering approximately 1400 square miles, a lot of the work that they carry out is based on information received from members of the public. Regarding what we described as an ‘anti-littering campaign,’ which we assumed was taking place due to the large number of press releases received from the council on the subject, Mr Morris said that no organised campaign was taking place. Describing the enforcement of littering laws, he added that discretion was always with the individual officer. “I feel very strongly about that,” he told us. “If an offence is committed, it can be dealt with in a number of ways. We can take the person through the courts, give them a verbal warning, or issue a fixed penalty notice.“Our strategy is educating people first, changing social attitudes. The enforcement is just the stick, and it is a very small stick.”
In our initial correspondence we also asked if there had been any quantifiable improvement in the amount of litter in areas patrolled by enforcement officers, as well as a change in social attitudes to littering. While acknowledging that it was more or less impossible to provide accurate measurements, he told us that in his personal experience a lot more people were disposing of their rubbish properly. “Sometimes the team from Carmarthen, say, come in after working Saturday and tell me ‘Paul the town’s spotless, there have been no offences,’ and that’s great even if it puts me out of a job!” Regarding the prosecution costs, which are significantly higher than those asked for by the CPS Mr Morris told us that is was ‘a completely different ball game.’ “When our officers investigate a case, whatever hours are spent, plus the Council’s legal costs and my time, are all written on a spreadsheet and presented to the Magistrates. If the court is not happy with the costs, they are not awarded, and that’s not a situation I want to get into.” The Herald is grateful to Mr Morris for clarifying the work that his department carry out. Had we talked with him at an earlier date, it would have resulted in a more balanced article. After speaking with the Council’s media centre, we have been advised that they are willing to facilitate interviews with individual heads of department in regard to technical issues that fall within their remit, something that we will bear in mind for the future.
Compensation offered after FSCS declares Llanelli firm in default
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
Disabled people hit hardest by changes to benefits
CHANGES to the welfare system over the past ten years have left disabled adults four times worse off financially than non-disabled adults, according to new research commissioned by the Disability Benefit Consortium, a coalition of over 80 UK disability organisations.
While many people who receive welfare support have experienced cuts of an average of £300 as a result of changes to the welfare system, disabled people have typically lost around £1,200 per year.
. The research, funded by the Three Guineas Trust, is the first comprehensive study looking specifically at the cumulative impact of welfare changes on disabled people, and conducted by the University of East Anglia, the University of Glasgow and Landman Economics.
The research also found:
. The more disabilities you have the more you lose out, for example someone who has six or more disabilities loses over £2,100 each year on average, whereas someone with one disability loses around £700 each year.
Households with one disabled adult and one disabled child lose out the most, with average losses of over £4,300 per year.
Today’s report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), ‘Has welfare become unfair – the impact of changes on disabled people’, which is based on this research, looks at the financial impact and lived experiences of welfare reform on disabled people over the past ten years.
As part of the research, 50 people living with a variety of conditions and disabilities were interviewed about their experiences. People said that they found the application and assessment processes highly stressful, and that they did not feel trusted, and constantly challenged.
The DBC also state that the current system has become so complex and dysfunctional, that many disabled people have found it has had a devastating impact on their wider health and wellbeing.
Pam McGee, 48, from Kent, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1994, which severely impacts her mobility. After a PIP assessment in 2017 she lost the higher rates for both the mobility and daily living components, which means her support was cut by £290 a month and she no longer qualifies for a Motability car. She’s now appealing the decision and says the stress caused by this process has impacted her health. She said: “If I lost my car, I don’t know how I’d carry on. I’m terrified I’ll be out of a job because without the car I won’t be able to get anywhere. If I can’t work at the age of 48, I would lose all of my pride. People always ask ‘What’s your name and what do you do?’ My job is what defines me.
“In the last 10 weeks I’ve had a massive relapse. I went dizzy and lost all feeling in my left leg. When I spoke to my neurologist he said the relapse was probably caused by stress. I’ve also been depressed and eating less.
“PIP has caused me and my family a lot of anxiety and stress. It’s caused my MS symptoms to worsen, which has reduced my mobility, confidence, and ability to take care of myself physically as well as mentally.”
The DBC say that the failure to include disability premiums as part of Universal Credit, and poorly designed assessment criteria are just two examples of the problems that are leaving disabled people worse off and is calling on the Government to make urgent improvements to the welfare system to ensure it works for everyone.
Michael Griffin, Research Lead for the DBC and Senior Policy Adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said: “For the first time, our research has shown just how much disabled people are bearing the brunt of the disastrous changes to welfare.
“Many disabled people have not yet even experienced the full extent of the cuts because they are still waiting to be moved over to Universal Credit. However, when this happens there will be a surge in poverty among those who are already at a crisis point.
“This is simply disgraceful and cannot be allowed to continue. The Government must make urgent improvements to the application processes and assessment criteria, and resolve the flaws in Universal Credit before more people are denied the support they desperately need to live independently.”
Ysgol Pontyberem officially opens its doors
PUPILS, staff, governors and invited guests have come together to celebrate the official opening of Ysgol Pontyberem.
A total of £4 million has been invested into refurbishing and re-modelling the school, along with a new roof, floors and walls.
The full refurbishment was funded equally between Carmarthenshire County Council and Welsh Government through the 21st Century Schools initiative.
A special ceremony was held in the school hall, where invited guests and dignitaries were entertained by pupils and the school choir.
Headteacher, Mr Gareth Owen, said: “Two years of building work has passed in order to achieve the goal, but the journey has been worthwhile. I would like to thank the councillors and officers at Carmarthenshire County Council for investing in our school. The cooperation between us has been vital in order to achieve all of our aspirations. A firm foundation has been set for the future of our pupils.”
During the ceremony, Chair of Governors, Mrs Deris Williams, said as part of the celebrations a new school motto ‘Creu’r Wên, Caru’r Iaith’ has been created by parent of the school and Chaired Bard, Aneirin Karadog.
Ysgol Pontyberem is the latest school to be delivered through Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme (MEP) which aims to give every child in the county access to first class accommodation and facilities.
To date, around £280 million has been invested in Carmarthenshire schools, including 10 new primary schools, two new secondary schools, 41 major refurbishments and extensions and work in 12 other schools.
Executive board member responsible for education, Cllr Glynog Davies said: “It’s great to see the children and staff at Ysgol Pontyberem have settled in to this totally refurbished school. There’s now plenty of room inside the school with great facilities and a spacious play area outside. It’s a school fitting for the 21st century. We have given a promise that we will do our best for education in Carmarthenshire and that is what we are doing under the Modernising Education programme.”
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