FIRST MINISTER Carwyn Jones was in Carmarthen on Thursday (Oct 15) to officially open the town’s new Welsh language learning centre, Yr Atom, which is based on on King Street in Carmarthen.
The c entre’s main aim is to develop Carmarthen as a truly bilingual town, ensuring that the Welsh language is seen and heard more often. Yr Atom, in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council (CCC) and Menter Gorllewin Sir Gâr, is working closely with the local business community, local groups and organisations to provide a programme of Welsh language courses as well as a large number of leisure activities.
Before opening the centre , the First Minister took a walk around the town with Carmarthenshire West and Pembrokeshire South Labour AM candidate Marc Tierney. They headed for Carmarthen market where the First Minister bought a cup of tea and some ham sandwiches. As he sat in the sun at a cafe table just outside the market people began to stop and chat with him. One lady stopped to tell him that her grandchild was receiving excellent care at Glangwili Hospital. Another lady stopped and asked if he was ‘off the TV’. The First Minister then walked through the town meeting and greeting a number of people before making his way to the Ivy Bush where we caught up with him.
The First Minister said : “Carmarthen is somewhere I come frequently. I am here to support our candidate Marc Tierney and it is great to be back here.”
Speaking of his previous career as a barrister, Carwyn Jones told us: “It is great to go around the town again. Carmarthen Crown Court was the last court I went to conduct a trial when I was a barrister. I went to the market too and that was wonderful. It is great to see Carmarthen thriving as a town again.”
We asked if the First Minister was sad to see the court closing. He said : “SCANDALOUS! That court has been there for a long time. It is quite unique inside. it has just been refurbished as well and the Magistrates downstairs. To think that a town like Carmarthen will lose its court flabbergasts me. It shows that somebody in London has taken a decision, not thought about Wales . Our vie w is that we should be running the courts ourselves. This is an example why this should be the case.”
There is mounting pressure for the UK Government to scrap the Criminal Court Charges so we asked the First Minister if he would be adding his voice to that call. He said : “It’s a racket. That is what I will call them publicly. It puts pressure on people to plead guilty to offences they haven’t committed quite often. It is completely wrong and completely against the principle of justice. People are fined just for turning up for court. Where are we heading as a society? We will have no courts. Where we do have courts people will be fined as they arrive. What’s next? Trial by combat. I say that half in jest. What I do see is the Welsh justice system being decimated by Whitehall.”
Carmarthenshire farmers face losing their livelihoods as a milk collection company and processor stated last week that they would no longer be collecting milk from Carmarthenshire farms from next year.
We asked the First Minister what could be done to help the milk producers. He said : “It is very tough because we know the Russian sanctions have affected the price of milk. We know that milk is quite difficult to brand and sell. We can do it in Wales, Welsh milk tends to attract a better customer base than milk from elsewhere. Ultimately what we want to see is more processing taking place in Wales. This is the opposite of what we would want to see. I have said to farmers before. Why be at the whim of others, come together. Work together. Why not think about a business plan to set up your own creamery. It has happened in the past in Wales. South Caernarvon was an example of that in the 1930’s. There is no reason why that can’t happen here.
“I know there is little tradition of people working together as producers in farming in Wales but that has got to happen because that is the way the world has gone. What I’d say to farmers is come together think about how you would like to do this yourselves. Make sure that people feel that this is a venture people can buy into and then you are not at the whim of others. I think there was chaos after the MMB went. What we saw then was farmers being offered a few pence here and there and chasing the money.
“You can’t blame people for that people have to make a living at the end of the day. We know that that chaos continued. It still hasn’t settled properly. We have seen farmers’ cooperatives in the dairy industry being set up but we have not really had a big one in the South of Wales. It would be useful to see developments like that in Wales.”
A recent Cardiff University report suggested that newspapers in Wales were on the decline. We asked the First Minister for his thoughts on the importance of local newspapers like The Herald. He said : “It is very worrying. At the moment we know that local papers do a sterling job in informing people of what is going on locally. We don’t have a vigorous and extensive national press in Wales. We have the Western Mail, we have the Daily Post and then of course we have the dailies in different parts of Wales.
“The Western Mail is the only one that can reach across Wales. Look at Northern Ireland where my wife is from in Belfast they have three daily papers in Belfast alone. Then of course there are Irish and Northern Irish editions of the Fleet Street papers. Fleet Street papers don’t bother producing Welsh editions that is the problem. I am worried that we might end up in a situation where we don’t have a newspaper that covers the whole of Wales. What happens if local papers are not around anymore? Who holds councils to account? Who tells people what councils are doing? We can’t all do it on Twitter, we can’t all do it on Facebook. I am concerned about the pressures that print media face at the moment.”
With the focus on the planning department of Carmarthenshire County Council and the apparent inconsistency of decision making we asked the First Minister if Wales needed an independent panel devoid of conflicts of interest and removed from councils to scrutinise questionable planning applications and breaches of planning.
He said: “What we need are local authorities with up to date Local Development Plans. If you don’t have an up to date Local Development Plan there is a free for all. You get applications that get approved that annoy people. Developers don’t know where they stand that is absolutely crucial. That process is important because local people are able to have their say. They can say where they think development should go.
“Quite often what people worry about is that they see a planning application approved near them. It might well be that that development has been allocate in the development plan in the years previously. It is important that people engage in that process. 90% of planning applications are uncontroversial so we don’t need a planning panel to look at them.
“With the new planning bill that is going through the Assembly where there are what we call developments of national significance they will be taken out of the hands of local authorities. They will be determined by Welsh ministers. Where the local authority turns you down it goes to appeal. The appeal legally is to Welsh ministers but in reality it goes to a planning inspector. The Welsh Government has the power to take planning out of the hands of local authorities now in certain circumstances. The system works but there is a need for greater consistency. We have 25 planning authorities. Not all of them work in the way we want.”
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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