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Trimsaran: Asset transfers in the spotlight

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Nia Griffith MP: Assets must be brought up to scratch before transfers

SHADOW SECRETARY of State for Wales, Nia Griffith MP chaired a public meeting at Trimsaran Rugby Club on Thursday (Jan 28) to discuss the future of the Miner’s Welfare Hall and the Trimsaran RFC changing rooms.

Both are threatened with closure if the local council and the community cannot find a solution to take over the assets and potentially fund their future.

Around 30 people attended the meeting and heard from representations including Nia Griffith MP, Sian Caiach (People First), Huw Woodford-Rock and Colin Davies of Kidwelly RFC.

Kicking off the meeting, Trimsaran RFC representative Huw Woodford- Rock said he thought that part of the Miner’s Welfare Hall should be demolished but that the main building was solid and should stay.

Huw told the meeting: “Trimsaran is now a designated primary rest and care centre in the event of floods.” Talking about the damage to the rugby club’s changing rooms, he said: “The council say they can’t do the repairs until the insurance people have been in. You have seen the recent floods and the insurance people are there the next day.

If the Club was looking to take over the facilities, Huw said: “The WRU in joint venture with Natwest will supply the club with banking staff to help with a business plan.”

Nia Griffith MP said: “I am sure most people are aware that the County Council is trying to get rid of their assets.” She asked if the community wanted to take on the responsibility of the assets. She continued: “Any of you who have been involved know how much hard work is involved. They key issue is to think of the uses you want it for when you look at a feasibility study. You have to think about whether it will be leased from the County or if the community council takes over the lease. If an independent body takes over, they may just disappear. The guidelines are that it has to remain where there is a clear ownership by County or Community Council.”

The representative of Kidwelly Park Association Colin Davies said that he had to lease their asset from the County Council: “Residents formed a Parks Association and all organisations were now responsible for the park.”

He continued: “We were the first to do this. We managed up to now through the generosity of local businesses, but we are struggling. If everyone does not pull together or you are wasting your time.

“We had to do it because the Town Council didn’t want anything to do with it. We were promised grants but we have not seen a penny of it yet. The County Council have said they will be giving us money in part payments.” Colin Davies concluded: “It has been a big saving for the County. They don’t have to employ anyone now. We were not being paid and we didn’t even have any machinery. We were fortunate that a businessman put some money forward. Pontarddulais RFC have gone through an Asset Transfer. The council paid them up front. It cost us £15,000 and we did the work ourselves. We had nothing from the County or the Town Council.” One member of the rugby club committee said that the club had been in communication with the County Council since January 2015: “We went to the Welsh Rugby Union and had to see a man called Geoff Roach who was sitting on the Asset Transfer Committee of Carmarthenshire County Council. “We had to go and see him to arrange a meeting with the County Council Asset Transfer Team. We met them on April 2, 2015. Don’t think for a minute they are trying to help you. If they had got away with it you would still be using the leisure centre to get the money to maintain the changing rooms. We have been active for the last 12 months in trying to get something done.”

Sian Caiach of People First said that she had a number of projects on the asset transfer list.

Addressing the meeting, she told the audience: “The county thought it would be a good idea to get rid of these assets. They offered £10,000 per project. We had 13 and had to drop a lot of them.”

She advised that Trimsaran RFC should negotiate as hard as they could and that they needed to get Meryl Gravel on their side as she had an enormous amount of influence.

Cllr Caiach continued: “A lot of assets are being neglected. We need to make sure the assets are looked after and handed over in A1 condition. We cannot be responsible for those costs right at the start. The council still own these assets and it is their responsibility. The whole idea is to make people take over the assets we already own and have paid for from our own council tax. That money will be diverted somewhere else and called a saving. There are councils and clubs who just can’t afford to do anything.

“Nobody knew that the policy of the County Council would be to get rid of everything. The County Council have not thought this through.”

Speaking after the meeting about the future for Trimsaran RFC and the county’s assets Nia Griffith told The Herald: “Trimsaran has a fantastic reputation for sport. The changing rooms are integral in being able to offer sport to all sorts of age groups. They do have the will and enthusiasm to take over those changing rooms. They are willing to sign a lease with the council but they want the facilities handed over in A1 condition. They need to be ready to be used by next winter.

“We understand there have been problems with asset transfer but you would think by now that they would have learned and the process should become straightforward. It needs to be efficient and the facilities need to be handed over in a way where they can be used with a proper lease agreement.”

Expressing reservations about the way asset transfers are being handled, the Llanelli MP continued: “The other issue is the concern about the asset transfer programme where the county is taking money from the reserves for vanity projects, things we don’t really need yet rather than making sure the assets they do have are up to standard. We want the repairs done and either kept on by the council or handed over fairly. What we don’t want is the neglect of these assets and deliberately letting them get run down whereby nobody can afford to get them done up. We have all paid for these assets. We need them repaired and the discussions to take place between all concerned to make sure the hand over can be cost effective and sustainable. The example of Kidwelly where they have worked so hard and have not had any financial help is awful. I will be pushing for that money to be released.”

Nia Griffith concluded: “Carmarthenshire is a land rich county. It is totally inexcusable to be using the green spaces in our communities for more housing. They provide opportunity for local people of all ages to get out get some fresh air and take part in exercise and enjoy the spaces. This is not a city where where it is difficult to find a space. We are blessed with a beautiful county. It is a worry and people are concerned.”

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Station Road: Off-licence refused alcohol licence

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AN OFF-LICENCE on Llanelli’s Station Road has been refused an alcohol licence by Carmarthenshire County Council after councillors decided it could add to the area’s crime and disorder problems.

The Licensing Committee’s decision has been upheld after the applicant, who runs the shop Kubus, appealed to the courts.

The applicant, Aram Mahmood, had asked the council for permission to sell alcohol at his shop between 9am and 9pm Monday to Sunday.

However councillors felt that granting the licence would contravene the authority’s Cumulative Impact Policy, which creates a presumption against the granting of premises licences in the Station Road area, due to anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled crime issues.

A Dyfed Powys Police representative said Station Road is still identified as a crime and disorder hot spot, and a Drinking in Public Places Order (DPPO) is in place.

During April 2017 and March 2018, 164 anti-social behaviour incidents were recorded in Station Road, over a quarter having occurred within licensed premises.

A fifth of all related crime and 13 per cent of all alcohol related anti-social behavior incidents recorded in Llanelli town occurred in Station Road.

Over 40 alcohol related violent crimes were also recorded there during the same period.

Although there are now fewer premises selling alcohol in Station Road, statistics show there is still a high level of alcohol related crime and disorder in the area.

The applicant told the committee that his main customers were families wishing to buy Polish and European foods and products.

He told councillors he had ordered a CCTV system and assured them that the management of alcohol would be well controlled by staff, though believed that his customers would not cause problems.

The licensing committee’s decision was upheld following the applicant’s appeal to Llanelli Magistrates Court.

Justices found that there was no evidence of exceptional reasons to justify departing from the Cumulative Impact Policy and were satisfied with the committee’s decision.

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Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman

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THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.

Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.

Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.

Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.

“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.

Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.

The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.

Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.

Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.

He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.

He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.

A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.

A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.

He is married with two children and three grandchildren.

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‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’

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LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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