THE HERALD took on a challenge on Sunday (Dec 11) – Christmas shopping.
Instead of heading for the out of town shopping centres, we decided to find out what it would be like shopping in a town centre.
The first challenge was finding a parking space. We were spoilt for choice. Just about every car park was empty and the majority of the on-street bays offering free parking with restrictions only applying from Monday to Saturday.
It was a case of take your pick and we did. Parking alongside the shops on Cowell Street meant it was a short hop to the High Street or even into the market.
A number of stalls and shops, including the St Elli Shopping Centre, were open.
The next challenge was to buy a Christmas gift for the Deputy Editor (a man of uncertain temper). We headed for the phone shop and, to our surprise, there wasn’t a soul in there taking hours to decide over this phone or that.
We walked straight in, bought a pair of headphones and walked out.
It was the same wherever we went. A phone charger bought and in the bag within seconds at the pound shop. Aftershave bought and in the bag within seconds at Superdrug.
This was becoming a bit of a breeze.
Feeling a bit peckish, we strolled into the Wimpy bar. There was a choice of people to be served by, all looking happy and festive.
Was this really only a week or so away from Christmas in a Carmarthenshire Town Centre?
A nose in the market gained some Christmas cards in the bag and by now this was becoming a pleasure. There was even Santa in his grotto with no queue, two photographers and bags of gifts for anyone willing to take the risk of stepping forward into the void. Coincidentally, he happened to be none other than UKIP’s Ken Rees.
Santa offered me a place on the stool aside his red chair and we yarned a little about politics and such like before he asked what I wanted for Christmas. I could have been cliché and said ‘peace and goodwill towards all men’, but I opted for any hope of a nice new snazzy blazer, blue shirt, smart jeans and a new pair of Chelsea boots.
A clip round the ear later and I was on my way back through this prettily lit town, past the huge Christmas tree and back to the Herald Morris 1000, which struggled to hold the booty I had gathered on this very pleasant Sunday shopping trip.
No stress, no crowds – just a peaceful easy feeling.
Llanelli Town Centre is open Sundays.
Llanelli has now become a “thriving market for drugs” court hears
LLANELLI has now become a “thriving market for drugs” due to a surge in “county lines” gangs, Swansea Crown Court heard last week.
Locals are being targeted by gangs from Birmingham and Liverpool selling Class A drugs such as crack and heroin.
Organised crime groups have been sending dealers – often youngsters with no criminal records to avoid suspicion to Carmarthenshire to set up shop.
The details emerged at the sentencing of a teenager last week who was sent to Llanelli to sell crack cocaine by a criminal gang.
Cameron Davy, 18, of Duncumb Road, Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham was found in a block of flats at Clos Dewi Medi in Morfa, Llanelli with 29 wraps of the class A drug and £1,132 in cash on 10 January.
Swansea Crown Court heard that police knew the teenager was from the Midlands and believed he may have been linked to a ‘county lines’ operation.
Jim Davis, prosecuting, told the court that when police were able to analyse the defendant’s phone they found numerous texts relating to drug deals over the preceding weeks and messages that showed he had regular contact with a criminal drugs gang known to police as “The Marco Line.”
Davy pleaded guilty to possession of crack cocaine with intent to supply and to possessing criminal property. The court heard he had no previous convictions.
Kate Williams, for Davy, said her client’s dealing had lasted a “couple of weeks” and he had been due to be paid £300 for his trip to Llanelli.
She said the defendant was very much at the bottom of the chain of command of the gang and had declined to name those who had sent him to west Wales. The barrister said when Davy’s mother had received the phone call to say her son was in custody she had no idea where Llanelli was, let alone why he was there.
Williams added that gangs tended to use people with no previous convictions to do their work because they were less likely to come to the attention of police.
Recorder Simon Mills told Davy custody was inevitable for those who dealt in Class A drugs.
Giving the defendant a one-third discount for his guilty pleas he sentenced the teenager to two years four months for the drugs charge, and to eight months for the money laundering charge – the sentences will run concurrently making an overall sentence of two years and four months in youth detention.
Davy will serve half that sentence in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.
The judge said the defendant would still be 19 when he was released from the custodial element of the sentence and he then faced a stark choice.
He told the defendant he would still be “a young man with your whole life ahead of you” and could either stay involved in drugs – becoming “a broken addict looking old beyond your years” or a “hardened thug in a gang facing prison sentences in double figures” – or he could turn his back on that lifestyle and lead a “decent life”.
As he sent him down, Recorder Mills added: “I urge him to think about that moment his mother got the phone call from him.”
Speaking after the sentencing Dyfed-Powys Police detective inspector Andrew Griffiths told The Llanelli Herald that tackling the trade in drugs was a priority for the force.
He said: “Illegal drugs cause misery and they need to be taken off the streets.
“Tackling the issue is a top priority, and I encourage anyone with any information or concerns about drug misuse to contact us. As the sentencing of Cameron Davy shows, we will take action.”
Community order for woman who stopped train from proceeding
150-YEAR-OLD law was used to prosecute a Llanelli woman who stood in a train doorway preventing it from leaving the station.
Josie Bridget O’Brien, 34, of High Street was in a train which had arrived at Llanelli railway station on May 21 but following an argument would not leave the train “by placing one foot on the platform and the other on the locomotive”, Llanelli Magistrates’ Court heard on Thursday (Oct 18).
The Crown Prosecution Service used section 36 of the Malicious Damages Act 1861 to successfully prosecute O’Brien.
The offence was laid as follows: At Llanelli, by a wilful omission or neglect, namely failing to alight the train by placing feet on the platform blocking doors from closing, obstructed an engine or carriage using the railway.
O’Brien also pleaded guilty to using threatening or abusive words or behaviour contrary to the Public Order Act 1986.
Taking into account her early guilty pleas the bench at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court decided to make a community order with a rehabilitation activity requirement. O’Brien was also fined £120 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £85.
No action was taken over a charge of commission of a further offence whilst subject to a conditional discharge order imposed at Carmarthenshire Magistrates’ Court on February 1.
Welsh construction sector fares better than UK average
THE PERCENTAGE of Welsh construction firms at heightened risk of insolvency sits comfortably below the UK average, according to the latest research by insolvency and restructuring trade body R3.
With 37.6% of firms at increased risk, the sector sits just over 2% below the UK average of 39.7%.
Only the construction sectors in the North West, London, and Northern Ireland fare better, at 37.4%, 37%, and 34.8% respectively.
However, the March research shows that the percentage of construction firms at heightened risk of insolvency increased by 3.8% from February’s figures, closely matching the construction sector’s UK-wide increase of 3.9%.
Commenting on the research, Louise Durkan, Chair of R3 in Wales and a director at Deloitte, told The Llanelli Herald: “Resting just below the UK average, while rising at the same rate, will come as encouraging news for many Welsh construction firms, and signals a hopeful outlook for the region after a challenging start to the year.
“According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, January saw the UK’s construction sector contract for the ninth month in a row, fuelled in part by increases to the cost of imports, a fall in the number of new homes being built, and the strain on the sector’s supply chains.
“However, for Wales at least, a number of new projects in the pipeline, and a rapidly rising Cardiff skyline, look to be helping the construction sector weather the storm.
The wider Welsh picture
Of all 10 key industry sectors monitored by R3 in Wales, construction had the 7th highest percentage of firms at heightened risk of insolvency, followed by agriculture (43.2%), technology and IT (47.7%), and the professional services sector (49.5%).
The restaurant sector saw the lowest percentage of firms at heightened risk of insolvency of all sectors in Wales at 31.9%.
However, the sector remains notably above the UK average of 30.2%, and is only surpassed by the East of England and the South West, at 32.1% and 33.8%, respectively.
Louise continues: “It is unfortunate but unsurprising to see the restaurant sector struggling. Consumer habits are shifting, and while there is a trend for increasing ‘leisure’ spending, this is coming at the expense of eating out in restaurants. Poor real wage growth is limiting what people can spend overall, so more spending in one area means less in another.”
Louise adds: “For any businesses in Wales who are starting to feel financial pressure, as always, R3 suggest seeking professional and qualified advice at the earliest possible opportunity, as this will only increase the chances of successful business rescue.”
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