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Llanelli ‘must fight’ for parks and playgrounds

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St Clears County Councillor P M Hughes: Opening a children's play area in 2009

St Clears County Councillor P M Hughes: Opening a children’s play
area in 2009

MANY OF Carmarthenshire’s sports clubs find themselves in a dire situation in as a result of the increases in pitch fees, says Secretary of the Carmarthenshire Unified Sports Committee (CUSC), Michael Barrett.

Launching a campaign to save parks and playgrounds in Carmarthenshire, Mr Bassett told us that he was also concerned that further rises in fees are imminent and that many of the parks may find their way into private ownership if community councils decide they cannot take them over.

Mike told The Herald, “We want these parks under ownership of the county council because they have the expertise to manage them. We are very concerned that these parks and playgrounds could come into private ownership. We have consulted with the council over the last 18 months and save them over £240,000 by paying for the full maintenance of the parks and pitches and increasing the size of the leagues.

“Apart from the bowls clubs, all the fees have gone up. £49 to £60 for Senior football fees have gone up from £49 per game to £60 per game. Junior football has risen from £23.50 per game to £30 per game. If the council had had their way they would have made us pay £235 for a senior game of football and £72.50 for a game of junior football. If we hadn’t fought agains this the clubs would have gone out of business.”

Criticising a press claim that only 4% of the county’s council tax comes from the Llanelli area, Mike expressed considerable scorn: “A report in one Llanelli paper this week suggested that 4% of council taxes come from the Llanelli area. It is in fact 43% of the County’s Council Tax which comes from the Llanelli area

“We have been told that East Carmarthenshire is subsidising Llanelli it is the other way around.”

In relation to parks and recreation facilities, Mike told us: “CUSC’s understanding is that most community councils cannot take them over because they cannot afford them and they would have to raise the precept. Why are they on the asset transfer programme when they are not costing them money?

“Parc Howard would have been a prime example. What happens to these people, the clubs if the parks are taken over by third parties? They will hike up fees. If we became a stand alone authority they wouldn’t be having as much as they do at the moment. We deserve these parks and playgrounds.”

Mr Bassett also raised concerns about the future disposal of assets and his worry that the parks may end up as sites for new housing developments and be lost to the community forever.

He said, “The main multi use area in Llanelli is Penygaer. That is a prime site for building houses. Our concern is that a private company takes over it, prices us out and then gets planning for new homes on those spaces. We need reassurances that this will not happen.”

If you take these green areas away where are the kids going to play?

“They say there is investment for a wellness centre. I would have thought the parks and playgrounds were the essence for well being. If we lose these clubs the income from leisure centres will take a hit. We have asked head of leisure for a response asking what he meant by his comment that he can’t afford to keep these places. We were told by Ian Jones that we could play on ‘4 G’ pitches and that houses built on the spaces would pay for those new pitches in schools.”

Mike continued: “We have been to see Ken Skates Head of Sport at the Welsh Assembly Government. He said they give councils grants and it is up to the councils where they make cuts. Why are they making the cuts when we have such a problem with obesity?”

We asked Mr Bassett if he was aware of any places in Carmarthenshire, which were receiving help and which might not be making any money in the long term.

He told us: “There is the boathouse in Laugharne costing upwards of £80,000 per year, the craft centre in St Clears is losing upwards of £50,00 per year. They have just given over £250,000 for the velodrome in Carmarthen. They are not consulting the public,. They are misinformed when they are spending this money.

“We don’t even get much from the Section 106 agreements.”

When asked about the County Council’s Executive Board and their role in the process Mr. Bassett said, “Seven out of ten of the councillors on the executive board live in rural areas. Their lifestyles have nothing in common with the people in an industrial town like Llanelli. We have been short changed.”

“The people of Llanelli need to stand up and fight. The whole town needs to come together and tell these people that we are not happy with stone walls and that we want to keep these areas. We paid and we still pay enough money for them.”

The Herald is backing a campaign organised by Mr. Bassett and the chairman of CUSC called ‘Save Our Parks and Playgrounds’ (SOPAP). Details of the campaign can be found on their Facebook page www.facebook. com/SOPAP

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Llanelli High Street shortlisted for prize

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LLANELLI HIGH STREET has been shortlisted in the Government’s Great British High Street Awards, in proud partnership with Visa, putting them in the running for up to £15,000.

After a rigorous selection process led by a panel of independent judges, the high street has been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, which celebrates high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify.

The bid by Ymlaen Llanelli follows research commissioned by Visa in April 2019 demonstrating the positive impact that the local high street has on communities. The research found that nearly three quarters of consumers (71%) in Wales say that shopping locally makes them feel happy, with nearly half (45%) citing supporting local shops and knowing where their money is going as the main reason. Spending time with friends and family (25%) and offering a sense of community (18%) were other reasons cited for why high streets make people feel happier. The research also reveals that half of consumers (50%) feel that their high street gives them a sense of pride in their local community.

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “Congratulations to Llanelli for being shortlisted for the Rising Star Award for this year’s Great British High Street Awards.

“Llanelli high street is a hive of activity, with food festivals, childrens’ days and community get-togethers all part of the local calendar. A great example of how high streets can bring a renewed energy to communities.

“People are happier when they can see their hard-earned cash support local businesses. That is why we are celebrating those that go above and beyond to keep their high streets thriving for generations to come.”

Sundeep Kaur, Head of UK & Ireland Merchant Services at Visa, added: “We’ve seen some fantastic entries for this year’s Great British High Street Awards across both the Champion High Street and Rising Star categories. In particular, the desire to innovate stands out amongst this year’s entries, with high streets adapting to the challenges presented by a rapidly changing retail environment to find ways to thrive at a local level.

“As our research shows, high streets play a vital role at the heart of communities, so this is a great opportunity for those communities with shortlisted high streets to show their support by placing their votes on the Great British High Street website.”

Llanelli High Street is one of the 28 high streets that have been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, identifying high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify. 12 high streets have been shortlisted in the Champion High Street category, which recognises the UK’s best high streets. All 40 high streets are now in the running to win a prize of up to £15,000 to be dedicated to a local high street initiative.

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Head Teacher at Primary school in Llanelli suspended

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THE HEAD TEACHER of a Welsh primary school has been suspended, it has been confirmed.

Catherine Lloyd-Jenkins, who is head at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes in Llanelli, has been suspended from her duties at the school with immediate effect.

Governors at the school have been unavailable for comment, but Carmarthenshire Council confirmed the news this morning.

It is understood that the chair of the governing body is currently out of the country, and the council would not comment further on the circumstances surrounding the suspension.

The council’s director of education, Gareth Morgans, said: “School staffing is a matter for the Governing Body, however, we can confirm the headteacher of Ysgol Ffwrnes has been suspended.

“It is not appropriate to comment further.”

Mrs Lloyd-Jenkins has worked at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes for 23 years, taking up a post at the school in 1996.

She has been the headteacher there for almost 20 years, taking over the role in 2000. She has also worked as a peer inspector at Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales confirmed.

According to one local councillor, ‘serious concerns’ have been raised about the school in recent months.

“Local residents and parents have approached us raising serious concerns about the school in question,” said Carmarthenshire councillor Rob James.

“We are in dialogue with senior council officers to assert whether the allegations are credible and what action the council and governors have taken in response to these allegations.”

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Dyfed-Powys Police numbers at record low, say Labour

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POLICE officers based across the Dyfed-Powys area are now at their lowest levels in the last decade, with over 300 officers being lost across the region, claim Carmarthenshire Labour.

According to a freedom of information request by Carmarthenshire Labour, police officers based across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion are down 42% and are at record lows in both Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

The figures published by Dyfed-Powys Police show that Carmarthenshire has lost 160 officers in the last ten years, Pembrokeshire is down 107 officers and Ceredigion has lost 56 bobbies on the beat.

These figures come off the back of a poor report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that shows the force has gone backwards in the last year, with crime also on the increase.

HMIC’s recent PEEL (Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) report noted concerns about Dyfed-Powys Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime and specifically warned of failures to assess all incidents of domestic abuse.

Carmarthenshire Labour Leader Cllr Rob James claims that the figures show that the current Police and Crime Commissioner is now performing worse than their predecessor.

Rob James stated: “These figures that show a dramatic decrease in police numbers are extremely worrying and reinforce what communities are saying across Dyfed Powys – there are simply not enough police officers in our areas.

“The fact that we now have lower police numbers in the three counties compared to the end of the last Police and Crime Commissioner’s term with crime now on the rise illustrates that the Plaid Cymru Commissioner is failing in his duty to protect our communities.

“We need urgent action to make our communities safe once more, as there is a clear link between the loss of youth provision and cuts to officer numbers, and the rise of crime in our communities.

“There is little evidence that our Commissioner has grasped the nettle over the last three years in tackling this important issue.”

These claims however, have been slapped down by Police and Crime Comissioner, Dafydd Llewellyn. He said that said that Cllr James had misunderstood or misrepresented the information provided to him.
The Carmarthen data have a significant rider attached to them.

The explanatory note reads: ‘It should be noted that the figures for Carmarthenshire police division between 2008 and 2018 are not comparable as the structure of Carmarthenshire division in 2018 has altered to that of 2008 which has impacted upon the figures provided’.

That explanation is expanded upon concerning the Ceredigion data. Regarding them, an explanatory note warns that: ‘[T]he structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded divisionally now come under the HQ remit, e.g. the Road Policing Unit, CID, etc.’.

Dafydd Llewelyn pointed out that note in his response to The Herald: “As outlined in the response to the Freedom of Information request, structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded as divisionally based are now recorded under the HQ remit, for example, Roads Policing Unit, CID.”

Dafydd Llewelyn continued: “Since taking up my role as the elected person to represent the many communities across the four counties served by the force, I have increased the overall resource available by 4%. I have ploughed funding into dedicated teams to support front line officers and have invested in resources to support the most vulnerable in our communities.

“I have commissioned services specific to their needs – be that as victims of domestic abuse or young people choosing to leave their homes for reasons unknown to authorities. I will continue to do this. I will not be held to account by numbers on paper alone, but by the difference I can make to individuals’ quality of life.

“I will also use the opportunity I have to campaign for services appropriate to the very specific needs an area the size of Dyfed-Powys Police has and will work with the force to adapt according to those needs.”

He concluded by pointing out: “Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys remain the safest counties nationally and I’m proud to be driving a service that is willing and able to flex and respond, despite the financial challenges faced day-in-day-out.”

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