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Volunteers’ struggle to maintain park

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'Children have been wonderful'

‘Children have been wonderful’

TWO volunteers from Burry Port who have been instrumental in taking over one of the County Council’s assets in the town say that they have been on a steep learning curve and have been left with uncertainty as to the long term future for the town’s remaining play areas.

Sharon Evans and Debbie Edwards form part of the Park’s Appeal Committee and have been working tirelessly for a number of years to ensure the town’s children have a place to play.

The Herald asked the two volunteers how they got involved with the asset transfer.

Debbie told The Herald: “We have taken over a small area of the main memorial park. It is the children’s play area and the Multi Use Games Area (MUGA).

“We signed a 21-year lease with the County Council. It was done with the view that the Town Council would take over the responsibility. It was in a terrible condition when we took it over. It was a huge task to take on. It would have been nice to have it handed over in A1 condition but we went ahead because it was the only chance we had as parents to save a play area.

We asked how the committee had raised the money to make good the play areas. Sharon answered: “We did a lot of fund raising and the children themselves told us what they wanted. There was a community consultation. We applied for a number of grants and got 4 grants. Two were from the Welsh Government, one was from the council and one was from an environmental company.”

Debbie explained the amount of paperwork and effort concerned: “Each of the grant applications I sent away filled two lever arch files; it took a long time to put them together. We had to do a lot of community consultations. We had plans that the children looked at.

“It is a massive ask to do this. We had support from the County Council in grant applications but it takes people with time and skills to do the work.”

The Herald asked the volunteers if they thought that people in other communities would follow suit and do as County Councillor Pam Palmer had asked and not take what they had for granted.

Debbie told us: “I don’t see many people coming forward to do this. It is a huge project to undertake. We did have a boundary we were working within and that was quite small. Some of the assets are much bigger.

“We normally go down and check the equipment but the children and the community of Burry Port actually look after it very well. There is wear and tear and sometimes there is rubbish and glass we have to clean up. We are working with the Town Council regarding the maintenance. People see us as being responsible for the park and the maintenance. If we had not done anything it would have all vanished.”

The Herald asked the volunteers how important the areas were in keeping communities healthy. Sharon was eager to stress the facilities’ importance to the community: “The play areas are so important and this is why we started up the group. My own children were just being pushed around from area to area by the police. There is a community link to petty crime. If the kids have nowhere to go they will get into trouble. The initial meeting we had highlighted the state of the park. Some people said it was a waste of time and that the park would be vandalised. It has been open now for three years and there has been no vandalism. When we have put on events the children have been wonderful.” The Herald asked the volunteers what lessons they had learned from taking over the asset and if they would now do things differently. With the benefit of hindsight, Debbie said: “We would have liked more insight into what we were taking on. We did not get support around the financial aspects. We had an issue in relation to VAT. We were led to believe we would not have to pay VAT and we ended up paying VAT. That was a big chunk of additional cash we had to raise. I would have liked the County Council to have worked closer with the Town Council to make sure their commitment to take it over was there.”

She continued: “It would be in the county’s interest to appoint someone to unify the county and town council and people wishing to take over the assets.

“We started off with one group of councillors who were supportive and then we had an election in between and the next group of people had different interests. We would like the council to sign up to a charter for communities where they guarantee that people are helped to take over the assets and that the work is recognised, and sustainable.”

Across Carmarthenshire, town and community councils have taken responsibility for facilities by raising their Council Tax precept, we asked whether the volunteers saw much appetite for the same thing in Burry Port.

Sharon was sceptical: “I am not sure if people in Burry Port would want to put £1 or £2 on the precept if that was put towards play areas. We are a very small handful of volunteers trying our best to keep this asset as it is. We don’t have a voice to do anything regarding the precept. The Town Council are paying the insurance and undertaking the maintenance but we do get called on and we continue to fundraise.”

She concluded: “The playing areas are central to the health and wellbeing of the children in Carmarthenshire and there should be a unified approach from the councils and organisations to ensure they remain. The youth need the spaces to be out playing in a safe environment and not on the streets.”

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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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MP and AM call for Trostre certainty after merger fails

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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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