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Parc Howard questions, but were there answers?

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350px-Parc_Howard_museum_-_geograph.org.uk_-_143410AT A COUNCIL meeting on Wednesday, May 11, Executive Board Member for Leisure and Regeneration brandished a piece of paper which, she claimed, provided proof that nefarious ‘Llanelli residents’ had scuppered the Council’s plans for refitting and refurbishing Parc Howard.

Cllr Gravell’s combative performance was in response to questions by Cllrs Bill Thomas and Jan Williams, both of whom have repeatedly pressed Cllr Gravell to substantiate her allegations of interference in the Council’s bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Speaking to The Herald following the meeting Councillor Thomas said: “We asked Meryl Gravell the questions and she never answered them. I gave the background, it is quite simple. She said at the last meeting ‘I was told’.

“We asked who told her. She waved a piece of paper in the air and said that she had a letter regarding the people of Llanelli scuppering the bid through objections over parking.”

Councillor Thomas told us: “I did not see that letter.”

CLAIMS ‘ABSOLUTELY CORRECT’

The Herald asked Cllr Gravell about the letter from HLF and asked her to confirm that the letter from which she read at the meeting supported her previous claims

Cllr Gravell replied: “That is absolutely correct. We had to put things straight. It is no good looking back to the past. I don’t know why they are harping on about it. We have to look to the future because it is a fantastic place. Today I was able to give them proof. What I said was correct. That is the end of it.”

The Herald asked if the letter could be made public upon request. She said, “I would probably have to ask HLF. If they are happy then of course.”

HLF: NO RECORD OF OBJECTIONS

Heritage Lottery Development Officer Adam Hutchings told us that he could not find any record of any communication to Meryl Gravell regarding any objections to parking from anyone in Llanelli once the bid was submitted: not from councillors, from residents, or members of the Parc Howard Association.

Moreover, Mr Hitchings confirmed that any objection to parking would have been a matter for the County Council and would not be in the remit of the Heritage Lottery. He also stated that should a letter between objectors and the County Council exist, it would have no influence over the bid as it would be regarded as a local political issue.

WHY THE BID WAS REJECTED

A report from HLF on the bid notes no interference in the bid once made. It states: ‘A considerable amount of community consultation had informed your proposals, but the work to prioritise your capital works and activities, deciding which to take forward and which to save for a future project, had not yet been done.

For this reason your grant request was high compared to other applications in the batch and works did not appear well planned.

‘The Parks for People programme expects schemes to focus on conservation of existing historical features of the park and costs should reflect this. Your application showed costs for new capital works that were more than double the costs of restoration work and this should be addressed if you hope to resubmit.

‘A lack of match funding meant that HLF’s grant rate was high. Further information on your fundraising efforts would have been useful.

‘Significant opportunities would be created through the project but the relationship between the new facilities at Parc Howard and those already existing at the Tywi Centre and Aberglasney (both of which have received HLF funding) was not described.

‘Estimated volunteer time and costs for activities were considered relatively low while professional fees for the development phase were considered high. We would not be able to cover the costs of existing council staff through the development grant unless they were to work above their normally contracted hours.’

A TRAIL OF LETTERS

In addition, The Herald has seen a copy of correspondence from HLF to Cllr Thomas addressing the specific point of whether any interference had taken place in relation to the Parc Howard funding bid.

That letter confirms: ‘We have found no record of meetings with, or contact from, the people listed in your query (residents, councillors, members of the Park Association, the local MP) either to support or to oppose the application. There was however a discussion with council officers on January 10 2014 to discuss the rejected application’.

Following Cllr Gravell’s claim, we contacted Mr Hitchings again and asked whether he was aware of further correspondence that would support it.

He told us: “I am afraid I really can’t add to my previous e mail (24.2.16) and the letter dated 21.4.14 to Helen Morgan both of which clearly set out the basis for the rejection. As far as I am aware nothing has changed. However, if anyone believes they have information from the Heritage Lottery Fund which is at odds with my responses to you I would find it helpful if a copy were to be forwarded to me.”

As Cllr Gravell avers that the material in her possession which suggests that there was interference by third parties from Llanelli in the HLF bid originated with that body, perhaps she will send that material to Mr Hitchings to jog his memory.

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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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