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.”
No action at Cardiff Airport over virus
THERE were no checks or screening at Cardiff airport this morning (Jan 23) as international concern continues to grow about the coronavirus which has killed 17 people and infected hundreds in a central Chinese city.
A Herald journalist landing at 5:30am on a flight from Doha, said that passengers arriving from China or other Southeast Asian were not questioned or screened, despite other airports including Heathrow taking action.
The twice daily Doha flight, which was launched with the help of the Welsh Government two years ago, connects travellers from many destinations from South East Asia, including from China. A connection between Beijing and Cardiff is offered with a 10 hour stop over at Hamad International Airport in Qatar.
The outbreak of the virus is centred on the city of Wuhan. Travellers from Wuhan change at Beijing. At this time of year there is an increased number of travellers between China and the UK due to the Chinese New Year celebrations’
The Guardian reported today (Jan 23) that a sense of panic has spread in the central Chinese city of Wuhan as the city of 11 million was put on lockdown in an attempt to quarantine a deadly virus believed to have originated there.
Today, Chinese authorities banned all transport links from the sprawling city, suspending buses, the subway system, ferries and shutting the airport and train stations to outgoing passengers.
Nearby Huanggang also suspended its public bus and railway system by the end of the day.
In Wuhan, it has been reported that supermarket shelves were empty and local markets sold out of produce as residents hoarded supplies and isolated themselves at home. Petrol stations were overwhelmed as drivers stocked up on fuel, exacerbated by rumours that reserves had run out. Local residents said pharmacies had sold out of face masks.
The incubation period for the virus is said to be five days according to experts.
The Welsh Government has been asked for a comment.
Spencer Birns, Chief Commercial Officer at Cardiff Airport, told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Cardiff Airport is closely following guidance provided by the relevant authorities in relation to screening procedures for Coronavirus. Port Health advice as of 1200 on 23rd January 2020 is to operate business as usual, with no additional screening. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will update our customers as required.
“The safety and security of our team and customers is our number one priority.”
A spokesperson told The Herald that Chinese nationals arriving in Cardiff on international flights are not being asked if they originated in Wuhan despite the crisis.
“We have not been told to do different to normal,” the spokesperson said.
Pictured above: Regular flights: Qatar Airways plane at Cardiff Airport this morning • Peter Sinclair from Milford Haven lives in China and taking precautions
Llanelli MP & AM call for school transport solutions
Llanelli’s MP and AM joined Tumble residents on Friday (15.01.20) to walk along the unlit path that children have been forced to take since a bus service to Maes y Gwendraeth school was scrapped.
A number of school bus routes in Carmarthenshire have been cancelled in response to UK Government legislation which has restricted the types of vehicles that bus companies can use. This has left many children who relied on these services with no safe way to get to school.
Nia Griffith MP and Lee Waters AM are working with local residents and councillors, like Dot Jones in Tumble, to find solutions that can be implemented by the County Council or UK Government.
Lee Waters AM said, “After carrying the bags and instruments of a Tumble pupil three miles to school on Friday morning it’s clear we need to get these services running again. I’ve been working with the Council and Welsh Government to try and find a common sense resolution to the problem of cancelled school buses right across Llanelli.
“It’s a complicated situation, and unfortunately the Welsh Government’s powers are limited, but we may have found a way forward if the UK Government are willing to be flexible. The Welsh Government has written to ask them to exempt school transport in Carmarthenshire from the new regulations which would allow the local services to resume.”
In addition to commercial school bus routes, there is also a scheme for pupils to access spare places on the coaches that pick up children who live further away from school for a small fare. However, local parents have raised concerns about the availability of this scheme and the process by which places are allocated.
Nia Griffith MP said, “We must work together to find ways to restore bus transport as soon as possible, even if the situation is complex.
“I understand the County Council will now review the scheme which lets pupils use spare places on existing school buses, but this needs to be done as quickly and effectively as possible to ensure the maximum number of pupils benefit.
“It is crazy to have buses with spare capacity passing the bus stop and leaving pupils to walk. But we need transport back for all pupils who have lost it.”
Cllr Rob James, who joined the walk to Ysgol Maes y Gwendraeth on Friday, said: “The bus services that have been withdrawn are vital services to many of our communities and must be retained.
“The local ward Councillors and I are thrilled with the support we are getting from the local MP and AM to solve these issues and we hope that there can be a resolution shortly.”
‘Seaside Kicks’ off to great start in Glanymor Ward!
A new project has been launched which is completely free for young people from across the Llanelli area.
‘Premier League Kicks’ run by Swansea City Community Trust started last Tuesday (14th January) and is already proving to be a success with both children and their parents.
Boys and Girls of all abilities are welcome to take part with sessions taking place on the brand new 3G pitch at Ysgol PenRhos.
Ages 8-12 take place on every Tuesday evening between 5.00pm and 6.00pm with ages 13-16 on every Wednesday between 8.00 and 9.00pm.
As well as the football sessions, activities will also include informative, educational workshops covering a wide range of issues including knife crime, county lines and online safety.
Craig Richards from the Swans Community Trust said:
“Nationally, ‘Premier League Kicks’ is one of the Premier League’s flagship community programmes. It has a long history of using the power of football and the value of sports participation to help youngsters in some of the most-high need areas.
“By engaging young people in constructive activities including football, coaching, educational and personal development sessions, communities up and down the country have been transformed with impressive football and sports participation rates, and authorities reporting significant reductions in anti-social behaviour in the areas in which it is delivered.”
Sean Rees, Llanelli Town Councillor for the Glanymor Ward added:
“It is a pleasure to link up with the Swans Community Trust, Police and Crime Commissioner, our PCSO’s, Llanelli Town Council and the Community Safety Partnership in bringing forward such an exciting project.
“Engagement has taken place with both local schools at Ysgol PenRhos and Ysgol Maes Y Morfa as well as strong partnership work with our existing sports clubs in the area at Seaside AFC and Bwlch Rangers too all of whom have been very supportive.
“It is fantastic to see so many youngsters turning out in great numbers with more expected next week. It gives them somewhere to go in the area and have fun with others within a safe environment.
“I now look forward to seeing this project go from strength to strength.”
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