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‘It is great to see Carmarthen thriving’

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The candidate, Carwyn, and the correspondent: A t the Ivy Bush, Carmarthen

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.”

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Further childcare hub opening in Llanelli

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AN additional childcare hub has opened in Llanelli this week (w/c Monday, May 25) due to increasing demand to provide care for children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

It will be located at Ysgol Ffwrnes in Llanelli and follows the opening of an extra three hubs at Bryn Primary School in Llanelli, Model Primary School in Carmarthen and Ysgol Tycroes.

It is important that numbers are kept low at the hubs to ensure the health and safety of both the children and staff.

Parents are being reminded to keep their children at home where possible to help contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). However, if you are a critical worker, and your child cannot stay at home, then your childcare will be prioritised.

Parents should only apply for childcare to cover their working hours; and are also being reminded to please cancel as soon as possible if they no longer need the provision.

Please note the timetable for applications to the childcare hubs has also changed, and that applications now close at 5pm on the Wednesday of the week before.

Unfortunately, we will no longer be able to consider any applications made after deadline. Due to the significant increase in demand for places at our hubs we must make sure they are staffed sufficiently. The health and safety of both staff and pupils is vital and has to be our main priority.

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How Wales created 19 new field hospitals in less than 8 weeks…

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Across Wales the Welsh Government is supporting the NHS to create new field hospitals and rapidly increase bed capacity.
Health boards have repurposed existing buildings, including the Principality Stadium, a holiday park and even a television studio to provide an additional 6,000 beds.Field hospitals are designed to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic by providing extra bed capacity but they will also help normal hospital services be restarted and support social care services.Last month, the first patients were admitted to Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig at the Principality Stadium, in Cardiff.

Four to six weeks

Here is how Wales almost doubled its bed capacity in less than eight weeks…The time it has taken to nearly double hospital bed capacity in Wales, creating field hospitals across the nation.

19 field hospitals in Wales
This includes the repurposing of Bluestone Holiday Park and Parc y Scarlets in west Wales and Venue Cymru in north Wales.

1,500 beds at the Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig
Making it one of the largest field hospitals in the UK.

Five days
The length of time it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig, which overlapped with the build phase.

3,000
The number of planning hours, involving more than 20 different disciplines, it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig.

£166m
Welsh Government funding for the set up, construction and equipment for field hospitals in Wales.

138,000
The number of pieces of equipment have been provided to help support field hospitals, including beds, imaging equipment, syringe drivers and medicines.

Three North Wales field hospitals have the name Enfys
Meaning rainbow – the symbol of hope and thank you to the NHS during the pandemic.
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7-year-old Mattie from Pembrey takes on home Pen y Fan-tastic challenge for Action for Children

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Plucky Mattie Denman will climb the equivalent of Pen y Fan in the drive at her family home in Pembrey on Friday 22nd May to raise funds for Action for Children.

Mattie (7), has always wanted to climb the highest mountain in South Wales and is unable to currently because of the coronavirus pandemic.  As the family exercise at home every day, she decided she wanted to do the 6-mile equivalent journey there while she waits for the chance to do it for real.  Mattie chose Action for Children as her mother, Sian, works for the charity in Carmarthenshire.

Mattie said: ‘My Mammy works for Action for Children and I want to help as well because lots of families need help.  My older brother and sister help Action for Children, so I asked Mammy if I could do something. We exercise everyday walking up and down the drive and I have always wanted to climb Pen y Fan, but we have never done it.

‘Mammy said I could pretend I am walking it and people will give money to the charity. I said brilliant, that is what I am going to do and I am super excited to do it. I will use mammy’s step counter and I hope I can help children that need support especially because it is so hard for some families because of coronavirus.’

Proud mum and family support practitioner for Action for Children, Sian, added: ‘Mattie has a lovely heart and really wanted to do something and I’m very proud she chose Pen y Fan as her home challenge.  Action for Children has been going the extra mile during the coronavirus pandemic continuing to support vulnerable families through phone and video sessions as well as food and help with the basics from our Emergency Appeal Fund. 

‘It is a tremendously challenging time for our families and every bit of money will directly help those in our communities who need it most.  I hope as many people as possible will donate to Mattie’s brilliant fundraising effort, it’ll make it even more special when we finally get to climb Pen y Fan for real.’

If you want to support Mattie’s Pen y Fan challenge please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mattiesclimb

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