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EU vote could cost county dearly

Thomas Sinclair

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carmscouncil1CARMARTHENSHIRE could lose out financially as a consequence of leaving the EU, senior staff and members of the Executive Board have warned.

In a meeting on Monday (Jul 3) Councillor Meryl Gravell said she was ‘very disappointed’ with the referendum result: “Carmarthen has gained very much from being a part of the European team,” she added.

Cllr Gravell added that she would be speaking to the head of WEFO on Thursday (Jul 6) before stressing that the Council needed to maximise its use of the remaining EU funding available.

” We have to ensure that we get as much funding into Carmarthenshire as we possibly can,” she told fellow members of the Executive Board.

“I think that it is more than ever important that we work with the private sector and get as much private sector funding in as possible.

“We do have some of our own capital funding that we have prepared to ensure that we continue regenerating Carmarthenshire and creating new jobs but it is imperative that we have got projects build-ready, so that for the next two years, no doubt there will still be funding coming from Europe, we need to ensure that we spend and that nothing is returned at the end of two years – that Carmarthenshire will get its fair share of what European funding there is coming in.”

Mark James warned that Brexit would cause big money problems for Carmarthenshire.

The Chief Executive highlighted the financial dangers for the county of leaving the European Union and urged the Welsh Government to pass money to local authorities much faster.

“We find it very difficult to pull money in. We do get European money eventually but it does seem to take an awful long time,” he told board members. “The first couple of years, not much seems to come out of Cardiff – it takes them a hell of a long time to get everything together. They tend to take programmes to themselves and then give [money] out in dribs and drabs over the last few years of the programme. We haven’t got that luxury this time.”

“The message needs to be very loud and clear to the Welsh Government,” Mr James stressed. “They have taken about 60% to 70% of the total programme”.

He added: “They’ve got it in large programmes on paper in Cardiff. They must let go quicker , because if we don’t spend the money in the next couple of years , we won’t maybe have the luxury of doing it in the final couple of years because we may well be out of the EU. That could cost this part of Wales millions and millions of pounds that we could have invested.

“Cardiff really do need to let go.”

This approach appears similar to one which was espoused by the leader of Rhonda Cynon Taf council earlier this week, when he called for an ‘all guns b l a z i n g ’ approach t o spending t h e remaining EU funding. A total of £1.1bn of EU funding in Wales has yet to be allocated, and there are fears that a withdrawal from the EU prior to 2020 could see the spending cut.

There has been widespread scepticism from Labour and Plaid Cymru over claims made by the Welsh Conservatives and UKIP that Westminster will make up the funding shortfall.

The Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, and Vote Leave campaigner, Andrew RT Davies responded to the news from Rhonda Cynon Taf with ‘derision’. In a media statement from Vote Leave, which , like UKIP , has apparently survived a referendum which should have made it redundant, he said: “This arrogant attitude to public money is part of the reason why so many of the communities in receipt of structural funds voted to leave the EU last month.

“The focus should be on outcomes and finding the right projects, not accelerating the rate of spending. That’s why so much EU money is wasted by this Welsh Labour Government.

“Having campaigned for a Vote to Leave I will fight tooth and nail to deliver Wales’ share of the Brexit dividend, but the short term priority should be ensuring that this money is put to good use and finding the right schemes – not splashing the cash for the sake of it.

“Qualification for structural funding is not a badge of honour, it’s a reflection of the relative poverty of those in areas who meet the criteria, and after three successive rounds of funding that money has clearly not been put to good use.”

This neatly sidesteps the central reason why Councils in Wales’ less wealthy areas – which include Carmarthenshire – should be so keen to claim the final pounds the EU will provide. It appears that, for all the encouraging noises being made by the Welsh Government, including cross-party (apart from the Welsh Conservatives) efforts to ensure Wales does not lose out financially from leaving the EU, people at a local authority level have no faith that this will actually materialise.

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Four charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs

Carli Newell

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FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Swansea.

Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.

Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:

  • Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
  • Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
  • Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
  • Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.

All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody. They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.

The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”

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New children’s play area in Bryn as part of new council housing development

Carli Newell

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A NEW children’s play area has opened in time for the summer holidays in Bryn, Llanelli as part of a new £5.9million council housing development.

Carmarthenshire County Council is building 32 new homes on land close to the Dylan housing estate in Bryn.

The scheme will be made up of 22 two-bedroom homes, four two-bedroom bungalows and six four-bedroom homes and is part of the council’s ongoing drive to deliver more affordable homes across the county. It has been part funded through the Welsh Government’s Affordable Housing Grant.

The development also includes a new children’s play area, funded by the council in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, which will take over the running and maintenance of the play area on completion.

Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans said: “I am delighted the park has been completed in time for the summer holidays for the local children to enjoy.

“We are committed to delivering more affordable housing across Carmarthenshire and this development will benefit dozens of families in Llanelli, as well as proving much needed facilities for the local community.

“I would like to thank the rural council for collaborating with this us on this and I hope the children are thrilled with it.”

Before designing the play area, the rural council liaised with local schoolchildren to find out what play equipment they wanted at their new park.

Llanelli Rural Council Chairman Cllr Tegwen Devichand said: “The council is delighted to be working in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council to provide this wonderful new play area for the community.

“The opening of the play area couldn’t have been better timed to coincide with the school holidays. I hope the local children will enjoy the range of challenging play equipment on offer and that they have lots of fun using it over the summer.”

The housing development is due to be completed by the beginning of 2022.

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Burry Port Harbour lighthouse overhaul tops council’s £2million investment

Carli Newell

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A £2MILLION investment in Burry Port Harbour is nearing completion, topped off with the iconic lighthouse getting a fresh lick of paint.

Carmarthenshire County Council is behind a range of improvements to maintain and restore the historic harbour which is one of the county’s most loved and well visited beauty spots.

Restoration of the Grade II listed harbour walls, undertaken under the guidance of CADW, will conclude within the next few weeks.

The council has also been working alongside The Marine Group, which operates the harbour, to improve mooring facilities. They are working closely with fishermen to bid for funding for new commercial pontoon infrastructure.

It will add to investment made over previous years which saw the council spend almost £1.5million on new pontoons, and over £300,000 in maintaining the harbour railings and bridge.

A local operator has agreed a lease for a cafe and public toilets on east side of Harbour, and the refurbishment of the old RNLI harbour office has recently started by The Marine Group (TMG) to create a harbour-side coffee house.

TMG has also invested in a state-of-the-art dredger which arrived at the harbour last autumn. Dredging is well underway and will continue until targeted depths are reached.

Boat lifting equipment and new fuelling points are also planned.

The council has introduced community safety officers to patrol the harbour assisting tourists and local people during the summer months, especially to advise around Covid regulations, as part of a tourism hotspot plan to take care of issues such as parking, litter, street cleansing, enforcement and signage.

Temporary car parking surfacing has also been laid on the east side along with new pay and display facilities ahead of a wider multi-million regeneration plan that will transform the harbour with a mix of housing, commercial and leisure space covering around 13 acres of prime development site.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We are proud of our continued investment in Burry Port Harbour. We are spending millions restoring and maintaining historic features that are much-loved by local people and visitors who come from far and wide to enjoy what the harbour has to offer.

“We continue to work closely alongside The Marine Group and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council to plan and prioritise works and ongoing maintenance. We are as keen as everyone else to ensure it is well-maintained and continues to be a place people can enjoy.

“We appreciate that there has been some upheaval during these improvement works but we ask people to understand that our investment will make Burry Port Harbour an even better place for the future.”

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