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.”
Police appeal following Llanelli assault allegation
“Dyfed-Powys Police is investigating an allegation of assault which occurred on the afternoon of July 19th 2020 on Lon yr Ysgol, Llanelli.
It is alleged that a male, described as white, thin build, approx. 6 foot tall, and in his 20’s. forcibly dragged a female into and along the street.
The female is described as white, long brown hair, thin build, approx. 5’5” tall, approx 30 years of age,
Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to PC 1009 Aled Davies either online at: http://bit.ly/DPPReportOnline, by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DPP/0005/20/07/2020/01/C.”
Carmarthenshire students congratulated on A / AS level results
CONGRATULATIONS to students across Carmarthenshire who are celebrating their A and AS level results.
Despite an extraordinary year and very challenging circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic, students have been rewarded for all their hard work.
A total of 98.6% of A level students in Wales achieved A* – E grades and there was also a small increase in the number of students awarded A* with 10.8% of learners receiving this grade.
At AS level, 22.2% of all grades awarded were A in Wales this year; and 91.4% of candidates achieved A* – E grades.
The results are broadly similar to previous years according to the WJEC, despite no examinations being held.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams yesterday (August 12) announced that a student’s final A level grade cannot be lower than their AS grade. This means some students may have to wait for revised grades to be reissued by the WJEC.
The commitment and dedication shown by students in Carmarthenshire has been praised by Carmarthenshire County Council’s education chiefs.
They are also commending teaching staff who this year with the cancellation of the summer examinations, have had to produce assessment grades based on a range of evidence such as classwork, homework, mock exams and non-exam assessments.
Cllr Glynog Davies, Executive Board Member for Education, said: “I would like to congratulate all our students on their AS and A level results; all their achievements and hard work has paid off and they are well prepared for their future goals and aspirations.
“It has been an exceptional year; however, it is important to remember that grades awarded this year are valued the same as in any other year and on behalf of the council, I would like to wish all our students every success for the future, whichever path they choose to follow.
“I also want to praise our schools for the high-quality support and guidance they give to our students which continues to impact positively on progress and standards. This year in particular, our teaching staff have had an even harder job, and we thank them for all their extraordinary effort.”
Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans, added: “Our students should feel very proud of their achievements. These results reflect their positive work ethic and dedication to their studies, and they can now progress with confidence to continued education, training or employment. I would like to sincerely congratulate them on all on their success.
“I would also like to thank our schools, our inspirational teachers and all our hard-working staff for all that they do to support and develop our students and prepare them for their future studies and careers. These results are testament to all their work and commitment.”
Burry Port RNLI Malfunction On Recovery vehicle
A busy and eventful weekend at Burry Port RNLI, with a major mechanical failure on one of our launch vehicles, we were tasked to six serious incidents on Saturday evening, a major equipment recovery on Sunday, with a few minor incidents occurring when recovery was complete.Starting Saturday, at 5.30 pm we were tasked for both boats to assist in a major search for a missing swimmer in Rhossili Bay area of the Gower. Both boats were launched and quickly on their way, when a major failure occurred on our County Tractor launch and recovery vehicle, left it in 6 foot of water, undriveable, with a fast incoming tide, with the recovery trailer still attached. Our driver had made a safe evacuation from the vehicle and was unhurt. Both boats arrived on scene at Rhossili and the swimmer was found safe and well, so both boats returned to Burry Port.
The decision was made to abandon the Tractor and trailer, anchor and bouy them for safety. At this point we received another tasking from Milford Haven UK Coastguard, for a missing person with 2 children, last seen in the water at Pembrey Country park Beach. A search was commenced, but the 3 casualties were again found safe and well, so both boats returned to Burry Port.
Whilst continuing to make safe our stricken vehicle, our Atlantic 85 lifeboat was re-tasked to search for 2 persons, cut off by the fast incoming tide at Worms Head on the Gower. The lifeboat arrived very quickly on scene, located the 2 casualties, and took them to the safety of the beach, handing them to the Rhossili Coastguard team.
At this point, a group of people were seen on the sandbank at Pembrey old Harbour, completely cut off by the tide, so our smaller D class ILB was sent to pick them up and ferry them to safety, and handed them to Burry Port UK CG team.Our Atlantic Lifeboat was moored in the harbour overnight, as we had no recovery vehicle, and our D class was recovered and stored for the night.
By 9.00am Sunday morning, a specialist recovery team and vehicle were en route to Burry Port, and a spare tractor was also despatched.Sunday was spent planning and preparing for the recovery, with low tide at 4.45 pm, both lifeboats were placed in positions to be used if called on, and at 3.00pm the recovery operation began, with the Tallus caterpillar tracked recovery vehicle, and the RNLI specialist team, and some assistance from our D class lifeboat crew, the stricken vehicle was recovered at 4.15pm, replaced by the replacement vehicle and both lifeboats were made available for service.
Minutes later the D class was assisting people trying to cross from a sandbank to the Lighthouse, and then to a vehicle bogged down in soft sand, before all boats, trailers and vehicles were back in the safety of the Lifeboat Station.Grateful thanks to the RNLI team, and the transport driver who replaced our stricken vehicle with a serviceable tractor. Great respect to all our team, who even in adverse conditions and problems, still managed to carry out all their taskings, and assist in the recovery of the vehicle. A great team effort.
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