AT 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.
The latest increase in coronavirus in Wales is ‘sobering’ says First Minister
THE FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford has criticised the lack of communication with the UK government as he gave a briefing on what he described as the “sobering” increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalisation in Wales.
The infection rate in Wales has risen to 23.6 infections for every 100k people as cases have spiked in areas including Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Newport.
Hospitalisations remain low but are rising, with five people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 and and 53 Covid patients on all hospital wards, according to the latest data from Public Health Wales from Sunday, September 13.
Mr Drakeford said that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen to 41 with four people in intensive care.
He also said that the R number in Wales was almost certainly now above one – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again. The latest estimate, he said, was between 0.7 and 1.2.
Mr Drakeford said: “In this most difficult week, there has been no meeting offered to First Ministers of any sort. Since the 28 May, there has been just one brief telephone call from the Prime Minister.
“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.
“We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start. I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.
“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”
Trade deal won’t benefit Wales
EVERY week, the Herald carries political opinion pieces from across Wales’ principal political parties.
This week, Jonathan Edwards MP casts an eye over the trade deal between the UK and Japan announced this week and wonders ‘What’s in it for Wales?’
Jonathan Edwards writes: THE BUNTING was on full display in Westminster this week as the British Government announced that it had reached the holy grail of signing its first post-Brexit international trade deal.
The agreement with Japan was described by Secretary of State Liz Truss as a ‘major moment in our national history’. As major moments go, a casual look at the detail leaves a lot to be desired. Effectively all the British Government has achieved is to replicate a deal UK business already benefited from as part of the EU-Japan trade deal signed in 2019.
The British Government admit that over a 15-year period the deal will only increase UK economic wealth by 0.07%. However, under the rules of Brexit political discourse never let the facts get in the way for an excuse to sing Rule Britannia and wave the Union Jack.
During the debate in the Commons, I highlighted that the British Government’s own figures indicate in a best-case scenario it would take 71 deals of this nature to make up for the British Governments strategy for the second phase of Brexit of leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union. If we no deal at the end of the year the situation would be considerably worse.
For Wales, the economic benefits are projected to be less than even the negligible UK figures with the deal only expected to benefit the Welsh economy by a measly 0.05%. The same goes for other trade deals currently being negotiated by the British Government.
Capitulating on chlorinated chicken in the US Trade deal could only benefit the Welsh economy by 0.05% over 15 years according to an excellent Senedd Research paper.
The New Zealand and Australia deals, according to the same paper, could have a 0% impact on the Welsh economy.
Never again can the Tories claim to be the party of business: what we are witnessing is economic madness.
The agricultural provisions in the Japan deal further fuels my fears that our farmers will be the proverbial sacrificial lambs in these trade negotiations. True there was progress on Geographical Indicators, but the British Government failed to secure any tariff rate quotas for food products. Instead, our farmers will only be able to utilise unused quotas by the European Union.
Let that sink in.
In the real world, effectively. EU export policy will determine what can be exported from the UK.
The Secretary of State emphasised that the Japan deal paved the way for entry to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A free trade area consisting of 11 countries (down from 12 after the US pulled out).
What the British Government are reluctant to reveal is that the TPP contains strict rules on State Aid and also includes an investor-state dispute resolution mechanism which would supersede UK domestic law. These are the same two areas, of course, that have led to the breakdown in the second phase Brexit negotiations currently ongoing.
At the end of the day, the two great Brexit era slogans of ‘take back control’ and ‘global Britain’ are completely incompatible and inherently contradictory.
As UK international trade policy develops these inconsistencies will become apparent to all.
Plans for Llanelli’s first ever virtual Christmas carnival
LLANELLI Christmas Carnival will not be held this year, for the first time in its 42-year history.
Partners have confirmed that the decision has been made in line with current Welsh Government guidance and increasing concerns about the spread of coronavirus linked to large gatherings.
However, plans are afoot to celebrate Christmases past and present in the town’s first ever virtual carnival.
On what would have been ‘carnival night’ the town’s illuminations will be switched on and an online celebration will be hosted on Carmarthenshire County Council’s social media channels featuring music, opportunity to reminisce over past carnivals and a challenge to businesses and organisations to create a carnival scene for the town’s first ever virtual parade.
The town’s Christmas tree is also being relocated to a more visible location for passers-by, at the busy Gelli-Onn junction near West End.
The largest Christmas carnival in Wales, Llanelli’s festive celebrations are a joint effort by Carmarthenshire County Council, Llanelli Town Council, Llanelli Rural Council and Llanelli Round Table.
Partners have expressed their disappointment at the decision but have vowed to keep Christmas spirit alive.
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We have made this decision with a very heavy heart as we know how much the carnival means to the people of Llanelli. This is the first time since it started over 40 years ago that we have had to take a decision like this and we are as disappointed as I’m sure everyone else will be.
“We are determined to do something special to keep the tradition alive and planning is now underway to hold a virtual carnival on what would have been the night of the traditional festivities.”
Cllr Shahana Najmi, Leader of Llanelli Town Council said: “The Llanelli Christmas Carnival is the highlight in the calendar for thousands of people and whilst we’re sorry we can’t hold the traditional carnival this year, we are pleased to be working with partners on an online celebration which we hope people will get involved with and enjoy.”
Cllr Tegwen Devichand, Leader of Llanelli Rural Council, said: “Generations of families have enjoyed Llanelli’s Christmas carnival over the years and we’re disappointed that for this first time in its history we are unable to put on the parade. We hope people will understand the decision and support the plans we’re developing for the town’s first virtual carnival.”
Roger Bowen, of Llanelli Round Table, added: “Llanelli’s carnival night is an important night as it raises a great amount of money for local charities and brings many communities together with such tremendous work on the floats, which really makes the evening such a special event. We hope that people will find other ways to give generously and support good causes in our communities.”
Further information will be released in the coming weeks about the virtual carnival and how people can get involved.
Keep an eye on Carmarthenshire County Council’s Facebook and Twitter feeds and visit newsroom.carmarthenshire.gov.wales
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