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Blogger ‘in dark’ over meeting

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Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 13.00.07THE LEADER of Carmarthenshire County Council has come under fire, after it was revealed that he leaked the outcome of a private meeting to the local press before the party concerned was informed.

Blogger Jacqui Thompson will be made to repay £190,000 following a 2013 libel case, according to a statement the council leader gave to a local paper.

Speaking to the Carmarthen Journal, Councillor Emlyn Dole said: “The executive board’s decision was to pursue the full costs awarded to the council by the High Court, in the interests of the public purse.”

The matter was discussed behind closed doors at an Executive Board Meeting on March 21. No details concerning the content of what was discussed, and what conclusions were reached, was made available to the media, and the webcast recording was terminated prior to the discussion.

However, apparently, the Board was asked to decide whether Ms Thompson – who writes the Carmarthenshire Planning Problems blog – should repay the council’s insurance excess of £127,625, or the full £190,390 which includes £62,765 to be repaid to the insurers.

The claim dates back to 2011. In June that year, Ms Thompson was arrested for trying to film a council meeting.

Later that year, Council Chief Executive Mark James posted comments on the Mad Axeman blog page, which Ms Thompson considered libellous.

She sued Mr James, but in March 2013 a High Court Judge dismissed her claim and honoured a counter-claim for libel from the council Chief Executive.

Ms Thompson was ordered to pay £25,000 in damages, as well as costs. An appeal in 2014 was unsuccessful.

However, while Ms Thompson was aware that this matter was being discussed by the Executive Board, she discovered the outcome of the meeting after she was phoned by a journalist, who told her what Cllr Dole had said.

Interestingly, this was a day before the minutes of the Executive Board Meeting were released. As previously mentioned, the meeting took place behind closed doors and, in the words of the minutes, ‘all officers, with the exception of the Director of Corporate Services, the Head of Administration and Law and the Democratic Services Officer left the meeting for this item.’

Ms Thompson had previously asked the Head of Legal Services Linda Rees Jones to be told the meeting’s outcome. She received the following response: “I cannot inform you of the outcome of this item before our own members, but I will notify you when members are notified.”

However, The Herald has learned that a number of County Councillors were unaware of the Executive Board’s decision.

Labour Councillor Anthony Jones said he was ‘rather surprised as I didn’t know anything about it.’

When informed about the comments made by the Council Leader, Cllr Jones added: “If that is the state of affairs, I wouldn’t have thought it appropriate to make such comments, and would have expected a briefing note.”

People First Councillor Siân Caiach had also not received any notification from the council. However, as she pointed out “we have never been informed about anything regarding the libel action before.”

“It has been a long saga, and I find it absolutely disgusting that the majority of my colleagues have gone along with this,” she added.

It has also been suggested by a source that the figures featured in the article ‘could only have come from the exempt report,’ which implies that a local newspaper was given access to a document which remains unavailable to the public.

The reason for this document, and the privacy surrounding the meeting, were given as follows in the executive Board minutes:

The report and subsequent discussion were said to contain ‘information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).’

In a statement made by Ms Thompson to the media, which she has given us permission to use, she said:” I am astonished and horrified by this decision, which incidentally I had to learn from the press rather than the council.

“As I’ve made clear in the past, and currently to Mr James’ bailiffs, I have nothing. This is ridiculous, they will never get this and now seem prepared to spend more good money going after bad. Part of these costs were unlawful and it’s about time the Welsh Government stepped in.”

The Herald asked Carmarthenshire County Council if it could provide a copy of the leader’s statement and a further comment from the head of legal on her assessment of the prospects for recovery of the monies mentioned.

We also asked ‘whether the Council thinks it appropriate for a member or officer to make a public statement on the topic without informing the other party to litigation of its substance.’

We also asked to confirm if ‘all councillors were notified before Cllr Dole’s leak of a confidential decision reached in private session to an employee of a newspaper group for which he is a columnist. We asked for confirmation of how councillors were notified. We asked for confirmation that Councillor Dole’s comments were more than a case of him enthusiastically jumping the gun in a casual conversation’.

Instead every single one of those queries, including the direct question of when and how the Council’s legal department had informed Mrs Thompson of the Executive Board’s decision, was ignored.

We received the following response:

‘Leader of the council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “The Executive Board’s decision was to pursue the full costs awarded to the council by the High Court, in the interests of the public purse.”

‘No further information will be provided’. Some straight questions, it seems, are incapable of being met with straight answers.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Neil Burman

    November 28, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    The leader and his executive are up to their necks in corruption.

  2. Neil Burman

    November 28, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    There will be a demonstration outside the hearing centre Picton Terrace Carmarthen at 1200hrs. Friday in support of Mrs. Thomson. I have written to the BBC over this matter
    which they have chosen to ignore. I hope S4C know about this demonstration and will
    have a camera there.

  3. alan m dransfield

    December 26, 2016 at 4:15 am

    I am of the opinion that Carmarthern Council are in contempt of Strasbergh Court .In particular, the Magyar Helsinki Bizozttsag case ref 18030 /11 which clearly defines that Article 10 is the Daddy of all FOIA and If my memory serves me corect Jaqui Thompson original FOIA request was rejected under the Dransfield Vexatious BS CaseGIA/3037/2011.
    In essence the UK Lord Chancellor will now have to revoke this Dransfield Vexatious Claptrap.
    I wouldn’t be surprised therfore if JT now slams the Carmarthen Council with a counter claim Libel Suit.

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Councillors campaign to ditch single-use plastics

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TWO Llanelli councillors have put aside party politics to press the Town Council to ditch single-use plastics, which includes products like plastic bottles, coffee cups and lids, plastic cutlery, straws and plastic stirrers.

Cllr Siôn Davies, a Conservative, and Cllr Sara Griffiths, an Independent, have submitted a joint motion to Llanelli Town Council to do away with single-use plastic products, encourage plastic free initiatives and ensure recycling routes are available to capture plastic waste.

Cllr Sara Griffiths, who represents the Lliedi ward, said:

“Single-use plastics are only used once before they’re thrown away.

“They’re not biodegradable and if they end up in a landfill, they can release toxic chemicals which can make their way into our food and water supply.

“It’s obvious we need to use less plastic and move towards more sustainable alternatives.

“It would be fantastic if Llanelli Town Council could lead the way and remove single-use plastics from our premises and encourage plastic free initiatives.”

The motion, which has been put forward to the July meeting of Llanelli Town Council, will need to be passed by a majority of the council’s 22 members.

If passed, Llanelli Town Council will also boycott plastic ‘food-on-the-go’ packaging, plastic bags, plastic drinking cups and condiment sachets.

Cllr Siôn Davies, who represents the Elli ward, said:

“Llanelli Town Council has a golden opportunity to lead by example.

“We have the chance to inspire others – local businesses and community organisations – to take similar action.

“Cutting out single-use plastics could go a long way to encourage local groups and organisations to ditch single-use plastics themselves.

“What we want, and what I think most of the general public want, is for us to work together cross-party to take action and solve the problems facing Llanelli.”

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Logic festival is back with a bigger and better line up

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FANS of dance music in South Wales are in for a real treat this year as Logic Festival is returnins to Swansea on Saturday September 7.

The festival is now in its fourth year, and this time its bigger and better with bigger name DJs, more arenas and three licenced bars to keep you refreshed and ready to party. New for 2019 there are also six arenas of which one is a chill out area and the bigger name DJ’s make this the best event that Wales has to offer, without a doubt.

For those of you that know the Logic Festival history it will come as no surprise that the owners have gone all out for 2019 to bring a diverse line up of world class DJs playing alongside the best that Wales has to offer in DJ talent, with some returning names that had such a great time in 2018 that they just had to come again and witness the legendary Logic Festival atmosphere for themselves, first hand.

Returning this year are headliners in the both the Trance and Hard Dance arena’s, Judge Jules and Darren Styles. Making first appearances in the Trance Arena are Dance Anthems legend Dave Pearce, German superstar Scot Project and all the way from Israel is BLiSS the DJ/ guitarist who jams along to his own tracks! Not to be outdone the Hard Dance arena features sets from UK hard dance legend Andy Whitby and flying in from Germany is the infamous Uberdruck. He will be playing alongside two Italian Hardstyle titans Technoboy and Francesco Zeta who again have flown in specially for Logic Festival 4.

And completely new for 2019 is the Clubland Classix arena where revellers can hear some of the biggest and best dance anthems ever made being played by the likes of: Ian Van Dahl who will be performing a live PA, and DJ sets from N – Trance, 4 Strings, Flip and Fill, Breeze and Scott Brown. This is a welsh festival exclusive so don’t miss out on the only chance you will get in 2019 to see so many heroes of Clubland all under one roof.

With a bigger line up, comes a higher capacity and more amenities for the public like two extra bars that have been custom built to stop the bottleneck effect that the extra numbers will bring with the event, more toilets on site so that queuing can be avoided and for the first time ever, a proper chill out arena has been added playing laid back vibes all day which has been inspired by the Balearic sound of ibiza, the party capital of Europe.

When asked to comment on all of the new improvements, the festival organiser and Logic brand owner Jason Pufal said: “No expense has been spared this year to make Logic Festival 4 the best event it could possibly be, as a thank you to all of the loyal customers who come every year and make the event so special.”

“In preparation for the bigger crowd that we are expecting this year, due to the fact that we have in effect supersized Logic Festival 4, everything about the event will be improved for 2019 and we are greatly looking forward to opening the gates for 12 hours of solid dance music based entertainment.”

So if you want to witness the best in dance music in six fully covered arenas in 2019, there is only one destination to head for and that is: Logic Festival 4, Ynysforgan Farm, Morriston, Swansea on Saturday September 7th, with the gates opening at 11am. We hope to see you there amongst a crowd of thousands!

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Innovative Llanelli school’s quality recognised by major award

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CLOSE to a year after its official opening, a state-of-the-art Llanelli school has been recognised for excellence.

Ysgol Pen Rhos, a £10.2 million primary school in the Seaside area of the town, was highly commended in the school project of the year category at the prestigious Education Buildings Wales Awards.

Officially opened in June 2018, the school features facilities including a flying start nursery, solar panels and classroom terraces for outdoor lessons.

A 3G pitch has also been made available for school and community use, as well as hard and soft landscaping areas. Features including brickwork and pitched roofs have been incorporated to reflect the industrial heritage of a neighbouring terrace of houses, alongside the use of more contemporary features like metal and wooden cladding. The project also delivered community benefits including training and local employment.

Ysgol Pen Rhos was funded by Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme and the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools initiative.

The school was initially developed and then delivered and project managed by Carmarthenshire County Council’s in-house Property Design Team, working with HLM Architects. Ysggol Pen Rhos was constructed by T Richard Jones (Betws) Ltd.

Created from the merger of the former Copperworks Infant Nursery School and Lakefield Primary School, Ysgol Pen Rhos caters for 420 pupils and 60 nursery children.

Cllr David Jenkins, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “Receiving an award for the quality of the school’s design and build is worthy recognition for an outstanding team effort that involved the council and its partners, as well as staff and pupils.

“The inclusion of environmentally friendly features also means the school will be sustainable for many years to come, with the availability of outdoor learning and landscaped areas sure to inspire pupils now and in future.

“This work has led to a facility that provides a world class learning environment, while celebrating Llanelli’s rich industrial heritage.

“Ysgol Pen Rhos is among many completed or planned projects in Carmarthenshire that show how seriously we take our commitment to providing the county’s children and communities with top quality facilities that meet the needs of the 21st century.”

Joe Cudd, Head Teacher of Ysgol Pen Rhos, said: “This award recognises the hard work of an exceptional team of people. Ysgol Pen Rhos is a wonderful place to learn.

“Our school is at the heart of the Seaside community and a place where we can realise our children’s dreams. We hold 480 futures at Ysgol Pen Rhos in a building that inspires, nurtures and is filled with the voices of the future.”

Ysgol Pen Rhos is located on the regenerated site of the former Copperworks Sport & Social Club and the Draka wire factory.

Other schools in the Llanelli area which are expected to be on the move in future include Ysgol Heol Goffa, which is relocating to a new facility at an adjoining site to Ysgol Pen Rhos.

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