HERALD NEWS UPDATE
THE CHAIRMAN of the Carmarthenshire United Sports Committee has written a letter to every single County Councillor in Carmarthenshire expressing his concerns over council plans to spend on stone walls on roundabouts and to invest in new projects while running existing projects into the ground and eventually selling them off or closing them off to the public. Mr Kevin Francis is asking councillors to support him against the onslaught of cuts. First Minister Carwyn Jones has also stated that it is now up to the council and councillors to convince the people of Carmarthenshire that the County Council is not officer led and to explain to the people why they are not using the £100 million plus they have in reserves.
Mr. Francis writes
This email has been sent to every councillor in Carmarthenshire. It is the councils intention to close every park and playground in Carmarthenshire if they can’t find anyone to take them over by 2017. Contact your local councillor now before we lose these areas forever.
My name is Kevin Francis and I am writing to you today in my role as Chairman of the Carmarthenshire Unified Sports Committee (CUSC).
This committee was formed in 2014 to oppose the pitch and green fee rises proposed by Carmarthenshire County Councils Executive Board. We are a non-political organisation. Our members are all non-paid volunteers who contribute their time and knowledge to help grass roots sports in our communities. As an example the Carmarthenshire Football League alone has 315 fully qualified and CRB checked volunteers coaching 1825 children.
Due to our campaign and a motion brought by current Leader of the council Emlyn Dole, CCC agreed to freeze the hire costs for a year until proper consultation with the sporting clubs had taken place. This consultation resulted in a saving of £241,505 to the authority and an affordable hire agreement to the sporting clubs.
It has come to our attention that The Executive Board of CCC will meet on Monday November 30th to discuss the possibility of ploughing £286,000 of taxpayer’s money into the velodrome situated in Carmarthen Park.
Councillor Meryl Gravell has stated that this project will attract more people to the area.
We at the CUSC are astonished that CCC are contemplating spending public money on this facility whilst at the same time Councillor David Jenkins, the Executive Board member for Finance, Property and Asset Transfer goes to press stating that they have no choice but to look at alternative ways of providing non statutory services such as the Llanelli areas parks and playgrounds because they simply cannot afford to continue maintaining them. Will the closure of parks and playgrounds in the Llanelli area attract more people?
We as a committee understand the financial situation the council faces but if cuts are being made to Leisure and Technical Services departments surely these should reflect their current and future usage? With this in mind we are asking whether users of this velodrome will be asked to cover the full maintenance cost of this area as is the case with Football, Rugby, Cricket and Bowls.
The Sporting organisations we represent are under great financial strain due to the fact that they are being asked to cover the full maintenance costs of the areas they hire to play their chosen sport. This kind of subsidy will not sit well with them or us.
The Llanelli area contributes roughly 43% of CCC’s Council Tax Income yet our public recreational areas are faced with closure.
Parks and Playgrounds contribute to the health and well being of children who would otherwise be part of the obesity statistic of young people in Wales, which currently stands at 19%! They are a vital part of encouraging a better standard of fitness, health and well being in the community, hence reducing the burden on the NHS.
Any loss of an outside playing area no matter how small has to be detrimental to resolving this obesity crisis. An area that is free to access for a family struggling financially could make a big difference to a child’s wellbeing. Leisure Centre’s and Play Centre’s are wonderful facilities but they are very expensive when used on a daily basis. We urge you as councilors to stand up and fight for all of our parks and playgrounds not just the select few.
This was the response of Phil Williams, a Carmarthenshire League Mini Football coach when he was asked what Penygaer & Llanerch Playing Fields meant to him:
“Three generations of my family have played football on those playing fields. I grew up in Llanerch; I played on those fields every weekend and every day during the school holidays. I learned to ride a bike on the path besides Penygaer. As a kid I watched my dad playing football there. I have memories of walking with my Gramps down there and him smoking his pipe. Every time I smell a pipe now it takes me back to those playing fields.
Those pitches are important for the town, as it is the only multi pitch facility in the area, where many teams come together on a Saturday and a Sunday to play football. It’s the spiritual home of the Carmarthenshire League”
A recent Facebook post by Charity Gala Organiser Ann Jones (05/11/15) gave us these thoughts:
“In 1912, Sir Stafford Howard and his wife Lady Stepney Howard gifted Parc Howard to the people of Llanelli. That is a fact it was a gift. There will always be ‘people of Llanelli’ but every 4 years, Councillor’s change. A comparatively small number of people, in power for a very short time do not have the right to decide on the future of something, which belongs to the people. I doubt that the Stepney Howards envisaged this appalling turn of events when they made their generous gift to our town. Strange how the Council seem to be able to find funds for all sorts of things, especially executives salary increments and golden handshakes but cannot work with the owners (Llanelli inhabitants) of Parc Howard to keep it in perpetuity, for future generations, one of the most historic and spectacular parks in Wales and beyond. If this part of our local heritage is lost, we only have ourselves to blame; people power is a mighty force. In reality, the council works for us, it is in our hands to save what is ours. I am appalled at what the council proposes to do. Please folk, please share and make our presence known. We will NOT have our heritage stolen from us to be reduced to commercial enterprise etc. I am appalled.”
We didn’t ask for walls on roundabouts but we do ask that we keep our recreational areas, as they are a vital part of the health and well being of our community. What are we paying a substantial amount of our council tax for?
Llanelli Town Centre has recently been voted the 2nd worst in the whole of the UK; do we want our open spaces to be tarred with the same humiliating brush or even worse, lost forever?
Even if the closure of these facilities doesn’t directly affect your constituency we still need your support in this matter.
K R Francis.
Gritters take industrial action
MEMBERS of three unions in Carmarthenshire have voted not to grit roads overnight for three consecutive nights between 18 and 20 December.
The action has been timed for maximum impact ahead of forecasted icy weather conditions in parts of the county.
The effect on commuters to Carmarthenshire from Pembrokeshire could be significant, as could the potential for travel chaos if Pembrokeshire shoppers head east to buy Christmas gifts.
As we went to press, a meeting was scheduled between Carmarthenshire County Council and the unions in an attempt to avert industrial action.
The strike vote followed an official dispute between GMB, Unison and Unite unions and CCC over the issue of rates of pay for staff undertaking winter gritting duties.
The council made an offer to staff that was rejected unanimously by members of GMB, the largest union in the depots, with a mandate to ballot for action if negotiations do not progress.
The unions say Carmarthenshire currently has some of the worst terms and conditions for staff under-taking gritting duties in comparison with other local authorities, and staff risking their own insurance when working.
Peter Hill, GMB Regional Organiser said: “We negotiated in good faith over the last year to try and find a deal, but unfortunately we’ve yet to get a fair deal for GMB members.
“Staff are being forced to undertake winter gritting on low rates of pay, after years of real-terms decline in the wages.
“Our members are angry and frustrated.”
The unions have indicated an intention to step up their industrial action in the New Year.
Beware of unlicensed taxi drivers this Christmas party season
A WARNING has been sounded about rogue taxi drivers as the Christmas party season approaches.
Carmarthenshire County Council licensing officers are urging people to stay safe when they use a cab.
They fear unlicensed drivers will be cashing in as growing numbers of people need taxis over the busy festive period.
Cabbies will be in high demand over the coming weeks as partygoers decide to drink and not drive. More people are also out shopping and the cold and wet weather means less will be inclined to walk home or wait at bus stops.
Licensing officers at Carmarthenshire Council have joined forces with the police to raise awareness of the problem and to carry out joint enforcement across the county during this busy period.
Residents are being warned they are not insured if they travel in an unlicensed cab, and people are being urged to check out cars and their drivers before they get in.
Licensed drivers will have been DBS checked, trained on how to safeguard members of the public, and should always wear identification badges.
Taxis are usually parked at known ranks, or their numbers can be found in various directories online.
Hackney carriages, which can be flagged down by the roadside, always have a roof sign, which is illuminated when they are available for hire.
They also display two identifying white door stickers and a white plate on the back bumper.
Taxis should display a list of fares for passengers and be fitted with meters, which should always begin with an initial charge of £2.20 before 10pm and £2.40 afterwards.
Private hire vehicles can only be pre-booked and not stopped in the street.
They carry two identifying yellow door stickers and a yellow plate on the back bumper.
I have lost the weight of my seven year old in a matter of months!
Andrea Morris, 35, from Llanelli, was fed up of being the fat friend.
‘I’ve been overweight as long as I can remember. After getting married I struggled to conceive. I had PCOS and hadn’ ovulated in over a year. I was advised by my GP to lose weight so I did! I managed to lose 2 stone and I got pregnant, regaining the weight after giving birth. I repeated this cycle of losing weight to get pregnant three times and ended up heavier than I’d ever been.’
In January 2019, after seeing some photos of herself in a Christmas dress Andrea decided that enough was enough.
‘At the time I thought I looked nice in that dress but looking back on it I really disliked the way I looked. Not only that, I was fed up of being the fat mam at the school gates. I was self-conscious, had no self-esteem and no energy to chase my three children. I felt worried I was going to put myself in an early grave by piling on the weight.’
On 3rd January 2019 Andrea joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) with WW Coach Catrin Morris in Llanelli, weighing 18 st 2.5lb.
‘My first workshop was fab! I came out feeling amazing. Catrin made me feel so empowered as she asked me what my ‘why’ was to lose weight. Even though I knew why I needed to, I hadn’t thought hard about it. It made me realise that I wanted to wear clothes that I liked, not just ones that covered my lumps and big bumps. I wanted to make my children proud and set a good example for them. I didn’t want to die young from weight related illnesses.’
The WW plan is based on a SmartPoints counting system, where all foods and drinks have a value. Each member has a personalised budget to spend on the foods that they love and fit in with their lifestyle, depending on which plan they are following; Blue, Green or Purple. Within each plan there zero point foods that don’t need to be counted to help stretch the budget. The plan also incorporates mind-set and activity.
Before she knew it, Andrea, a busy mum of 3, was losing weight. As her weight dropped, her confidence grew which encouraged her to become more active and take up Couch25K and join exercise classes like Boogie Bounce.
‘I love the WW App, which is included with a subscription membership plan. The app makes sticking to budget easy. There is a barcode scanner to scan every day foods to find out the SmartPoints value. In addition to this there are 1000’s of recipes which help me to plan my meals with ease. I can grab food on the go and still feel like I’m in control knowing I can have zero pointed food if I’ve used my entire SmartPoints budget.’
Andrea finds eating out is absolutely doable with this plan.
‘Nando’s is one of my favourite places to eat. I use the Restaurant section in the App to help me find the lowest point option. I usually choose butterfly chicken, macho peas and corn on the cob. A Subway chicken tikka sub for 6 points fits in perfectly too when I’m on the go.’
By October 2019, Andrea has lost an amazing 4 stone 5lb.
‘Recently, while I was sorting breakfast for the family, my 7 year old daughter weighed herself on our bathroom scales and announced proudly that she was 4 stone 5 lb. This was something that she hadn’t done before as I don’t encourage my children to weigh themselves. The WW ethos is that it is more than just the numbers on the scales and as such I don’t ‘worry’ about the numbers. It is more about how I feel, getting healthier and the changes in my behaviours to achieve this. What hit home was that this was how much weight I had lost!’
For Andrea this weight loss and change in her outlook wouldn’t have happened without the support of WW Coach Catrin and the weekly WW Workshop.
‘The workshops have helped me think about my relationship with food and encouraged me to become more active. Each week we explore a different technique to help us change our behaviours. Recent topics have been how to manage stress, how to sit less and eat more fruit and veg, all things that I need help and advice with. The group support is brilliant.’
‘My life has changed for the better. I’m happier and more outgoing. Simple things like taking the children to Legoland are so much more enjoyable as I don’t have to worry that I won’t fit in the rides! I have gained friends from attending the workshop and with my new found body confidence I have bought a dress that I would never have worn before for my friend’s wedding. I’m not quite where I want to be yet but I can see the end is achievable. I’m so motivated and watching the scales go down each week is amazing. I’d recommend WW to everyone!’
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