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Tributes pour in for Jeff Connell

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jeffconnellFRIENDS, colleagues and local politicians have been united in their praise for photographer Jeff Connell and sorrow at his sudden passing on Thursday (Dec 10). Jeff worked as photographer for the Llanelli Star and was well known around Carmarthenshire as the friendly face of photography. His work spanned many years in local newspapers where he covered just about any event, which had been taking place in his home community of Llanelli as well as covering news stories, which had national significance. Jeff went to work for Carmarthenshire County Coun c il’s press team late in his career where he was reunited with many of his former colleagues.In a very personal tribute to Jeff his colleagues at the press office said, “Jeff Connell was a legend.

It feels wrong to use the past tense, it’s unbelievable he isn’t with us any more. He will be remembered for being one of the best, if not the best, photographer in South Wales. But to us as friends and colleagues he was so much more. He was known and loved by so many people, everyone liked him, he was full of fun, had a wicked sense of humour and a huge heart. “His loss will be felt by so many, most of all his wife Desna whom he absolutely adored and of course his family. Our hearts go out to them and we pray they find the strength to cope with their tragic loss. “Jeff was artistic, enthusiastic, kind, generous, loyal, hardworking, committed, unique. But these are just words and there are no words adequate to describe the legend that was Jeff Connell or the massive gap he leaves in all our lives.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Nia Griffith MP was equally generous in her assessment of how much Jeff meant to the community of Llanelli. She said of Jeff : “Everyone warmed immediately to Jeff and he will be very sorely missed. Jeff had the most charming way of persuading even the most reluctant of subjects to have their photo taken, and he did an amazing job of getting great pictures in all sorts of challenging circumstances. We tend to associate him with journalistic style photos, but his range was much greater. On one occasion, I was very privileged to watch him deliver his adjudication of a competition celebrating Carmarthenshire in memory of the late Ifor Russell to the Llanelli Photographic Society: he had clearly put an enormous amount of work into judging the competition.

He did not just tell us about the winners, but he gave really helpful, constructive and good-humored feedback to every one of the entrants, explaining how they could have improved their portrayal of Carmarthenshire…. It was a pleasure to listen to, and we all learned a lot. We will all miss him, and I would like to express my deepest sympathy to his family.” Friend and fellow photographer Graham Harries of GPhotography said : “Jeff would always make time to say hello no matter how busy he was. He’d remember everyones name & trust me when you meet so many people on a daily basis that’s something special. Always the professional he’d get the job done with no fussing, always make those in front of his camera feel at ease & always considerate to those other photographers on the same shoot.”

Plaid Cymru’s Helen Mary Jones paid tribute to the much loved photographer saying : “I was very sad indeed to hear of Jeff’s passing. I had spoken to him just a few weeks ago when out canvassing with the Plaid Llanelli team. On that occasion he was, as always, full of warmth and humour, reminding me of some of the funnier photo’s he’s taken of me during my time as Llanelli’s AM, including making me pose on one leg and lean at a very odd angle when cutting a ribbon to open a new shop for Tenvous the cancer charity. “At the time I though he was crazy, but as always with Jeff, the photo came out very well. He really was a consummate professional, but more than that. He had a great knack for setting his subjects at ease, helping them relax, and getting the best out of them. Particularity with people who were a bit shy, or reluctant to be photographed – I’m thinking for example of a group of young people with learning disabilities in a community group I was visiting – Jeff was always very patient and kind, and the result was always a great picture that told a strong story. He taught me one important lesson for a person in public life – never argue with the photographer – they know what they are doing!

“He loved his community and cared a lot about Llanelli. He was a real character and will be much missed. My thoughts are with his family and friends.” Jeff’s friend and former editor of the Llanelli Star Robert Lloyd said he could not believe that he had gone. Robert said : “Jeff was one of those characters who was larger than life. He was a joy to work with and he was a consummate professional. His work was a strong feature of the newspaper and he could always be relied on to deliver that photo with impact. He always made people feel at ease and never failed to get a smile out of people. My thoughts are with his wife and family at this time.” Paying tribute to Jeff Connell, Keith Davies AM, said: “Jeff was a very wellknown man who I met on many occasions. He will be remembered for his excellent work and good sense of humour. “His sudden death is a loss not only to his family and colleagues but also to the wider Carmarthenshire community who will have met Jeff at the many events he photographed and supported.”

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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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