39 YEAR-OLD Lee Waters from Ammanford has put his name forward as a candidate to become the Assembly Member for Llanelli following the retirement of former AM Keith Davies earlier this year.
Lee is the Director of the Institute for Welsh Affairs, (IWA) and a former Chief Political Correspondent for ITV Wales and BBC Wales producer. He was a leading figure in the 2011 referendum ‘Yes for Wales’ campaign and before joining the Institute was Director of the influential green transport organisation, Sustrans Cymru, where he led the campaign for the world’s first Active Travel Bill, and oversaw a £20m portfolio of practical projects.
Born and brought up in the Amman Valley and educated at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth where he received a first class degree in politics, he has worked for politicians in the House of Commons, National Assembly for Wales and US House of Representatives in Washington DC where he was an English Speaking Union Capitol Hill Scholar.
After graduating he served as a speechwriter to the Secretary of State for Wales before joining BBC Wales as a producer of the flagship breakfast radio programme, Good Morning Wales. In 2001 he joined the ITV Wales political unit, presenting the weekly politics programme Waterfront and reporting as a lobby correspondent.
In 2011 he was asked by the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, to be his representative on the cross-party Yes campaign ahead of the referendum, and led on communications as campaign Vice Chair. For the past decade he has also been Chair of Governors of the highly regarded Barry Island Primary School.
The Herald unexpectedly bumped into Lee at Parc Howard on Saturday (Jul 25) along with Nia Griffith and a group of volunteers campaigning to keep the park in public ownership. The Herald took the opportunity of asking this newest of political candidates some questions about his views on Parc Howard and the political landscape in general. We began by asking him why he was standing for Assembly Member. He told the Herald: “I am frustrated with the way things are and rather than complaining and criticising I have decided to stand up and be counted and do something about it. That is why I have put my name forward as the Labour candidate for the Llanelli AM.”
We asked Lee why he was campaigning at the park and he told the Herald: “I’ve signed the petition and the good thing that has come out of this is it has forced the people of Llanelli to realise that Parc Howard’s future cannot be taken for granted. There is a threat and we can either sit back or allow private developers to carve this up for their interests or the town can come together in a conversation to decide what future they want for the park. Lots of people have grown up here and have happy memories of the park. We regard it as ours and it is very important to the town.”
Given the widespread reporting of the activities of the Parc Howard Association chairman Ken Rees we asked Lee if the park association needed a change of culture. Looking at the bigger political picture in the UK before turning to the issue of the PHA chairman Ken Rees, Lee told the Herald: “There is a big storm coming. We have only had half of the cuts. Places like this are under threat. We can’t just leave this to councillors and people who sit on committees. It needs to have a broader conversation about what we want for our community and how that is going to be paid for. We need to take some responsibility ourselves for our town. That is the positive coming out of this revolt against what Ken Rees and others have been doing behind people’s backs. It is important that the park belongs to the public but it is not reaching its full potential. We may not want it handed over to private interests but we want something better than we have got.”
With the announcements that community services in Carmarthenshire are going to face savage cuts the Herald asked Lee if the community cuts were unjust as opposed to the huge salaries and pay increases of county council executives. He gave a very definite answer, which we have not been used to from politicians in general for some time. He said: “It goes beyond that and it is a debate about what we want councils and governments to do. Quite clearly the Conservatives want to strip back the state to a bear minimum, give people tax cuts and let them fund what they see fit. There isn’t a place in that debate for the good of the community. What we can do here is forge a different future where we ask what do we want the community together to own and run to be there for everybody to have no mater what they are worth or what advantages in life they have grown up with. We can quarrel about the crumbs on the table or we can look at the bigger picture and ask what we want our community to have to help each other. Parc Howard can play a big part in that but it can’t be as it is now because we are not making the most of an asset. We need a debate about what the future should be for Parc Howard.”
If Lee is elected he will become one of a number of increasingly younger politicians to grace the Senedd senior by only six years to Plaid’s Bethan Jenkins who is still the youngest Assembly Member at age 33. Bethan took office in 2007 at the age of 29.
Llanelli High Street shortlisted for prize
LLANELLI HIGH STREET has been shortlisted in the Government’s Great British High Street Awards, in proud partnership with Visa, putting them in the running for up to £15,000.
After a rigorous selection process led by a panel of independent judges, the high street has been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, which celebrates high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify.
The bid by Ymlaen Llanelli follows research commissioned by Visa in April 2019 demonstrating the positive impact that the local high street has on communities. The research found that nearly three quarters of consumers (71%) in Wales say that shopping locally makes them feel happy, with nearly half (45%) citing supporting local shops and knowing where their money is going as the main reason. Spending time with friends and family (25%) and offering a sense of community (18%) were other reasons cited for why high streets make people feel happier. The research also reveals that half of consumers (50%) feel that their high street gives them a sense of pride in their local community.
High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “Congratulations to Llanelli for being shortlisted for the Rising Star Award for this year’s Great British High Street Awards.
“Llanelli high street is a hive of activity, with food festivals, childrens’ days and community get-togethers all part of the local calendar. A great example of how high streets can bring a renewed energy to communities.
“People are happier when they can see their hard-earned cash support local businesses. That is why we are celebrating those that go above and beyond to keep their high streets thriving for generations to come.”
Sundeep Kaur, Head of UK & Ireland Merchant Services at Visa, added: “We’ve seen some fantastic entries for this year’s Great British High Street Awards across both the Champion High Street and Rising Star categories. In particular, the desire to innovate stands out amongst this year’s entries, with high streets adapting to the challenges presented by a rapidly changing retail environment to find ways to thrive at a local level.
“As our research shows, high streets play a vital role at the heart of communities, so this is a great opportunity for those communities with shortlisted high streets to show their support by placing their votes on the Great British High Street website.”
Llanelli High Street is one of the 28 high streets that have been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, identifying high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify. 12 high streets have been shortlisted in the Champion High Street category, which recognises the UK’s best high streets. All 40 high streets are now in the running to win a prize of up to £15,000 to be dedicated to a local high street initiative.
Head Teacher at Primary school in Llanelli suspended
THE HEAD TEACHER of a Welsh primary school has been suspended, it has been confirmed.
Catherine Lloyd-Jenkins, who is head at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes in Llanelli, has been suspended from her duties at the school with immediate effect.
Governors at the school have been unavailable for comment, but Carmarthenshire Council confirmed the news this morning.
It is understood that the chair of the governing body is currently out of the country, and the council would not comment further on the circumstances surrounding the suspension.
The council’s director of education, Gareth Morgans, said: “School staffing is a matter for the Governing Body, however, we can confirm the headteacher of Ysgol Ffwrnes has been suspended.
“It is not appropriate to comment further.”
Mrs Lloyd-Jenkins has worked at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes for 23 years, taking up a post at the school in 1996.
She has been the headteacher there for almost 20 years, taking over the role in 2000. She has also worked as a peer inspector at Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales confirmed.
According to one local councillor, ‘serious concerns’ have been raised about the school in recent months.
“Local residents and parents have approached us raising serious concerns about the school in question,” said Carmarthenshire councillor Rob James.
“We are in dialogue with senior council officers to assert whether the allegations are credible and what action the council and governors have taken in response to these allegations.”
Dyfed-Powys Police numbers at record low, say Labour
POLICE officers based across the Dyfed-Powys area are now at their lowest levels in the last decade, with over 300 officers being lost across the region, claim Carmarthenshire Labour.
According to a freedom of information request by Carmarthenshire Labour, police officers based across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion are down 42% and are at record lows in both Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.
The figures published by Dyfed-Powys Police show that Carmarthenshire has lost 160 officers in the last ten years, Pembrokeshire is down 107 officers and Ceredigion has lost 56 bobbies on the beat.
These figures come off the back of a poor report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that shows the force has gone backwards in the last year, with crime also on the increase.
HMIC’s recent PEEL (Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) report noted concerns about Dyfed-Powys Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime and specifically warned of failures to assess all incidents of domestic abuse.
Carmarthenshire Labour Leader Cllr Rob James claims that the figures show that the current Police and Crime Commissioner is now performing worse than their predecessor.
Rob James stated: “These figures that show a dramatic decrease in police numbers are extremely worrying and reinforce what communities are saying across Dyfed Powys – there are simply not enough police officers in our areas.
“The fact that we now have lower police numbers in the three counties compared to the end of the last Police and Crime Commissioner’s term with crime now on the rise illustrates that the Plaid Cymru Commissioner is failing in his duty to protect our communities.
“We need urgent action to make our communities safe once more, as there is a clear link between the loss of youth provision and cuts to officer numbers, and the rise of crime in our communities.
“There is little evidence that our Commissioner has grasped the nettle over the last three years in tackling this important issue.”
These claims however, have been slapped down by Police and Crime Comissioner, Dafydd Llewellyn. He said that said that Cllr James had misunderstood or misrepresented the information provided to him.
The Carmarthen data have a significant rider attached to them.
The explanatory note reads: ‘It should be noted that the figures for Carmarthenshire police division between 2008 and 2018 are not comparable as the structure of Carmarthenshire division in 2018 has altered to that of 2008 which has impacted upon the figures provided’.
That explanation is expanded upon concerning the Ceredigion data. Regarding them, an explanatory note warns that: ‘[T]he structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded divisionally now come under the HQ remit, e.g. the Road Policing Unit, CID, etc.’.
Dafydd Llewelyn pointed out that note in his response to The Herald: “As outlined in the response to the Freedom of Information request, structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded as divisionally based are now recorded under the HQ remit, for example, Roads Policing Unit, CID.”
Dafydd Llewelyn continued: “Since taking up my role as the elected person to represent the many communities across the four counties served by the force, I have increased the overall resource available by 4%. I have ploughed funding into dedicated teams to support front line officers and have invested in resources to support the most vulnerable in our communities.
“I have commissioned services specific to their needs – be that as victims of domestic abuse or young people choosing to leave their homes for reasons unknown to authorities. I will continue to do this. I will not be held to account by numbers on paper alone, but by the difference I can make to individuals’ quality of life.
“I will also use the opportunity I have to campaign for services appropriate to the very specific needs an area the size of Dyfed-Powys Police has and will work with the force to adapt according to those needs.”
He concluded by pointing out: “Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys remain the safest counties nationally and I’m proud to be driving a service that is willing and able to flex and respond, despite the financial challenges faced day-in-day-out.”
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