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Plaid accommodates Labour on council changes

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‘We have stopped Labour’s backdoor plans’: Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid justifies Plaid’s shock move

‘We have stopped Labour’s
backdoor plans’: Leanne Wood,
leader of Plaid justifies Plaid’s
shock move

THE WELSH GOVERNMENT is to press ahead with its controversial proposals to merge Welsh councils, after it struck a deal with Plaid Cymru to allow the deadlocked bill to proceed.

The same bill had been pulled by the Labour government a fortnight ago, due to lack of support. It had been suggested that the Government required opposition support as it had failed to convince even its own AM’s of the case to advance the unpopular measure.

Plaid Cymru’s decision not to oppose the bill has been criticised by other opposition parties in the Assembly, but stoutly defended by the party itself.

Welsh Conservatives were first out of the traps, with an excoriating statement that castigated Plaid Cymru for its reversal of policy.

Welsh Conservatives oppose the Bill. The party tabled an amendment calling for referenda to decide on mergers – giving local people the final say.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Local Government, Janet Finch-Saunders AM, said: “Barely 72 hours after criticising Labour, Plaid’s leader has happily cosied up and done a deal with them.

“We should’ve expected nothing less than this astonishing hypocrisy. You’d be hard pushed to make it up.

“Thanks to Plaid and Labour, local people won’t get a say on the future of our councils.

“Thanks to them, councils could now be forced to merge. Vote Plaid – Get Labour. It’s that simple – and this disregard for Welsh communities is concrete evidence.

“We believe local people should have a say and local authorities should be able to demonstrate how a merger will benefit communities.”

While the Welsh Conservatives’ position – particularly their repetition of the ‘vote Plaid – get Labour’ is scarcely surprising, an altogether more personal note was struck by Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats pointed out that, only a couple of weeks ago, Simon Thomas stated that he believed the Welsh Government’s Local Government bill was “taking the p*ss”, while their spokesperson, Peter Black, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Local Government Minister, said: “This is humiliating stuff. Only weeks after one of Plaid’s Assembly Members made clear he would be voting against the bill, his party is now stating that they will support it. They are in an absolute mess.

“Plaid have sold out, but received absolutely nothing in return. It’s bizarre.

“Their embarrassing u-turn is based on smoke and mirrors. They have achieved literally nothing. There is no commitment for a fair voting system and it was always the case that mergers were not going to happen before the Assembly election.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats will not support any local government reform that doesn’t bring power closer to people by devolving powers and introducing a fairer voting system. If councils are going to be larger, then it is essential that they reflect the people that voted for them.”

Plaid Cymru offered a stout defence of their change of tack, claiming that it had stopped Labour from forcing through its centralisation agenda for Welsh local government without a mandate.

Plaid stated that concessions it had secured ‘mean no work will be able to start on implementing reforms until after the next Welsh election – allowing people to choose which party’s vision they wish to see delivered after May.’

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: “Plaid Cymru has stopped Labour from enforcing their map for local government reorganisation through the back door before plans are put to people. Large scale changes to Local Government structures should not be decided by politicians with no mandate but should be decided by people in an election.”

However, given the continuing deadlock in the Assembly, it is difficult to see what, if anything Plaid has achieved, other than hand over a significant hostage to fortune sure to be exploited by its political opponents.

Ms Wood continued: “The demands made by Plaid Cymru will mean that all parties can present their individual proposals in their manifestos and seek a mandate to implement them, without being bound by the current government’s preferences.

“It will allow a Plaid Cymru government to implement the changes that we want to see to the structure of Local Government, by retaining the existing 22 Local Authorities making them work together as combined regional authorities.

“Plaid Cymru has also ensured that we will have the ability to introduce proportional representation for local councils to allow for fairer voting systems like STV.

“The Party of Wales has acted in the best interests of the people of Wales, giving them the say on how they want their local councils to be elected and structured in future and halting the centralisation plans of Labour. We now seek a mandate for our proposals for localism and empowering Wales’ communities in the election to the National Assembly next May.”

Simon Thomas AM, who featured prominently in the Liberal Democrat response to Plaid’s decision, said: “The Party of Wales have secured the future of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire for the time being by this agreement with the Welsh Government.”

Mr Thomas continued: “Plaid Cymru has stopped Labour from enforcing their map for local government reorganisation through the back door. It is now up to the people of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire to decide on the various visions of different political parties. Plaid Cymru has its own policy on creating regional combined authorities. The extent to which we will be able to implement this vision, or to which we will have to co-operate with other parties, will be decided by the people of Wales in next year’s elections.”

Following the passage of Stage 4 of the Local Government (Wales) Bill the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has recognised that no further progress can be made on local government reorganisation until after May 2016. It has restated its previous call for all parties and local government leaders to be involved in important national talks following the May 2016 National Assembly for Wales elections to determine the future shape of public services in Wales.

The call came after the agreement was struck between Labour and Plaid Cymru to pass the Local Government (Wales) Bill.

A WLGA spokesperson said: “Continued speculation around local government reorganisation is making life intensely difficult for local councils who are trying to plan and reform local services in the face of major financial pressures. It also impacts on the morale of hundreds of thousands of local government workers who are being adversely affected by the insecurity such ongoing speculation causes. This is taking place in a wider context within which the key issue facing local councils is not a distant restructuring in 2020, but the impact of the UK Spending Review where cuts to local services ranging from between 25-40% are being explored at Westminster.

“With the Labour-Plaid agreement, it is essential that the Welsh public is fully involved in any plans to reorganise and reform local councils. As such it is vital that these should be fully explained in party manifestos which can be scrutinised and judged by the electorate as part of next year’s Welsh elections.

“Local council leaders will seek to work with the next Welsh Government to make sure we get this right by creating a system of local government that is effective and sustainable well into the future, and one that stresses the importance of local democracy and ensures that localism is at the heart of Welsh public policy.”

Local Government leaders in West Wales have repeatedly made it clear that they want no truck with the proposals coming from Cardiff Bay. Former Carmarthenshire Leader Kevin Madge made his opposition to reorganisation clear and the Council under his leadership was all but unanimous in expressing its opposition to any proposed merger or dismemberment of the authority.

It appears that his successor, Plaid’s Emlyn Dole, who waxed lyrical about the importance of retaining Carmarthenshire in its current form as a unitary authority, has recently changed his tune. When the Welsh Government was forced to withdraw its proposals a fortnight ago he told The Herald: “I am in favour of local government reorganisation. I am happy with the decision taken to postpone the debate because it will give time for people to give due consideration and have meaningful discussions on this issue. It has to be done on a consensual basis where form follows functions.”

Pembrokeshire Council Leader, Jamie Adams, has been consistent and critical in his response to the proposals for reorganisation, stating repeatedly that the Welsh Government has shown no value to the change, no service improvements attributable to it, and no sign of how mergers and reorganisation will be funded. He has also warned of inevitable job losses at the sharp end of service delivery.

With some within Plaid still quietly critical of their party’s tactics towards Labour in last May’s Westminster elections, there is concern that the Conservatives – in particular – and potentially UKIP could exploit Plaid’s decision not to oppose the Bill at next May’s elections.

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader, Jamie Adams, said: “This news will obviously will please County Councillor Michael Williams from Tenby North who is Leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Pembrokeshire County Council.

“However it appears at odds with the views of the Council leaders of Carmarthen and Ceredigion, both of whom have stated clearly that they are against any proposals for council mergers.

“For me, it’s a further demonstration of political parties at Cardiff Bay being out of touch with communities.

“They are creating a map without any understanding of how services operate. Neither are they demonstrating to the public how they expect services to be improved or money saved just because councils become bigger.

Cllr Adams added: “The evidence is that larger authorities do not perform as well.”

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Our election prediction: No change for west Wales, same MPs will be elected

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COUNTING of ballots is underway at the Pavillion at the Pembrokeshire County Showground, Haverfordwest and in Llanelli at the Selwyn Samuel Centre.

Exit polls from the BBC and Sky News predict a Conservative majority of over eighty seats, with Labour predicted to slip as low as 191 MPs, come the end of tonight’s count

We’re live throughout the night from the County Showground, Haverfordwest, and the Selwyn Samuel Centre, Llanelli, to bring you rolling coverage and news as it unfolds for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Llanelli, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

We are predicting the following results:

Preseli Pembrokeshire – Stephen Crabb, Conservative, Hold
Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire – Simon Hart, Conservative, Hold
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr – Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru, Hold
Llanelli – Nia Griffith, Labour, Hold
Ceredigion – Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru, Hold

Effectively, we predict no change in members of parliament for any of the constituencies in west Wales.

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Outreach Van stationed as police commissioner responds to ‘community concenrs’

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POLICE and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn has instigated additional partnership working in Llanelli in response to local concerns relating to substance misuse.

Dyfed Powys Police is proudly teaming up with Dyfed Drug and Alcohol Service (DDAS), Carmarthenshire County Council and CrimeStoppers Fearless campaign in order to engage with members of our community on a new outreach van, in order to support and signpost those in need during the festive period.

Each agency will be travelling together to Station Road in Llanelli in a new outreach van on Thursday December 12 and Monday December 16, and will be parked opposite the Premier store between 5pm and 9pm on both days.

Funded by Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, DDAS will be offering:

•          BBV Testing for HIV, Hep B and C

•          Referral into DDAS for treatment

•          Naloxone kit dispensing

•          Harm reduction advice

•          Drug and alcohol education via drug box, beer googles, scratch and sniff cards

•          Information on safer alcohol consumption over Christmas

Officers from the council’s Homes and Safer Communities department will be in attendance to give information and advice on a range of issues including the regeneration plans for the Tyisha ward and how residents can have their say. They will also be able to advise on various housing options; and people will be able to discuss in confidence any housing matters they may have, for example, in relation to anti-social behaviour or noise nuisance.

The council’s Communities for Work team will be offering:

•          Support to develop your skills and gain experience

•          Acquire the training and qualifications you need

•          Find the right job

•          Basic IT support

•          Support with CVs and job applications

•          Volunteer and work placement opportunities

•          Health and wellbeing support

CrimeStoppers Fearless campaign workers, who are a dedicated young person’s charity which support young people in giving information about crime 100% anonymously, will also be on board the van and keen to engage with any young person in the area.  They will be educating youths about County Lines and the impact crime can have on their lives.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn stated: “I hope that this innovative delivery style of a dynamic outreach approach to substance misuse can become the norm in Llanelli in order to reduce the harm to individuals and the community. I continually listen to the communities I represent and respond.”

Dyfed Powys Police officers will also be on hand at different intervals to offer crime prevention advice and listen to and provide help and support for any issues you experience in your community.

Chief Inspector Chris Neve of Dyfed-Powys Police said: “I am grateful to the Police and Crime Commissioner and our partners for their support in this new initiative, which I hope will be seen as a valuable opportunity for the communities of Llanelli to engage with the services involved. I encourage anyone who requires support and advice from any of the agencies, or would just like to chat with any of them, to come along and visit the van on either date. This really is an important opportunity – and we all as a collective want to help as many people in need as possible.”

The council’s Head of Homes and Safer Communities Jonathan Morgan said: “This is an excellent opportunity for the community to speak to our officers first-hand about any issues they may have or any advice they may need on housing matters. We have exciting plans to transform the Tyisha ward and the community is a big part of that, we want to make Tyisha a better place to live and work for everyone.”

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Llanelli Councillor Resigns from Plaid Cymru

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SHOCK ANNOUNCEMENT JUST DAYS BEFORE THE GENERAL ELECTION

Jordan Randall, Llanelli Rural Councillor for Swiss Valley says he has resigned from Plaid Cymru because he is disappointed with the choice of Plaid candidate again for the forthcoming General Election.

The full statement, sent to The Llanelli Herald today: “This is not a decision that I’ve taken lightly but one which has been a long time coming. 
“I’ve had the privilege of being a Llanelli Rural Councillor in recent years to try my very best in making a difference where I can. I now look forward to continuing this work as an Independent Councillor for Swiss Valley, which will always be my priority. 


“I’ve been very disappointed with the choice of Plaid candidate again for the forthcoming General Election. If the party is to make any progress in the Town, then it needs a candidate who is local to the area and actually understands the everyday issues which face our communities. We do not need someone who is completely out of touch and unfortunately just sees Llanelli as a stepping stone to advance their own career. 


“Ongoing personal vendettas now seem to be the most important thing for Plaid Cymru at a local level. I no longer recognise the party. The party already lost a number of lifelong members in recent years due to the negativity locally. Astonishingly, they have also taken the decision to no longer have an all year round office presence within the Town. 
“Calls for national leadership have simply gone unanswered, with new leader Adam Price unwilling to intervene in any way to try to achieve a way forward.


“I am also not happy and have been for some time with Plaid’s position on Brexit as they are simply ignoring the wishes of the people of Llanelli as the Town overwhelmingly voted to leave in the referendum, a decision which whether people voted to Remain or Leave ought to be one which is respected. 


“Party politics is broken but I remain committed to campaigning to improve our public services, helping to sort out any concerns and supporting ideas which will strengthen and grow our community.”

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