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146 jobs at risk in Llanelli town centre

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Office closing: 146 jobs are at risk (pic. Alan Evans / The Herald)

IT HAS been announced today (Jan 26) that the Department for Working Pensions office in Llanelli could close next year.

The closure would affect  146 employees at the office, however staff are being offered positions in Pembroke, Cardiff or Merthyr.

The office is classed as a ‘back of house’ service, with today’s announcement including plans to merge 78 small Jobcentre Plus offices in urban areas and closing 27 of the ‘back office’ buildings. It is hoped that more efficient and larger sites can be developed to replace them.

Nia Griffith MP said: “The proposed closure of the DWP offices is a real blow to the staff and their families and to the wider community in Llanelli.

“This Tory government’s plans for changes in the benefit system is already in complete disarray, and now is no time to be losing experienced staff.

“It’s no good pretending that staff can be redeployed – if they are being offered Cardiff or Pembroke – that is just not going to be a realistic proposition to many people who have family commitments.

“Town centre jobs are vital for Llanelli, and this will mean another hit to town centre businesses and the wider local economy.

“We need to fight this all the way and I will be pursuing UK government ministers as a matter of urgency.”

Lee Waters AM also commented on the news, saying: “This is awful news for the town and for all the people directly affected.

“The UK government has been talking this week about a new strategy to spread wealth across the UK and this type of action achieves the opposite.

“This will hit the local economy and impact on the way important public services are delivered.

“Nia Griffith and I will be seeking meetings to find out more and to see what help can be offered to all those who will lose out.”

Mid and West AM Simon Thomas has tabled an emergency question in the National Assembly about the closure.

Mr Thomas said: “I’ve asked the Welsh Minister to make a statement about the 146 job losses in Llanelli. These cruel Conservative cuts will have a negative impact on Llanelli. We should be trying to encourage more activity and footfall in the town centre as the Plaid led Carmarthenshire Council is doing, not take more people out of Llanelli town centre.”

Speaking to the Llanelli Herald following the announcement of the job losses, Steve Donoghue, PCS full time officer and Llanelli Rural Mayor said: “PCS is opposed to office closures unless they pose no issues for our members and no issues for our customers. Unfortunately many of these proposals will cause serious difficulties for many members and will impact seriously on customer service.

“In these cases we will oppose the closures and campaign to keep the sites open. PCS will provide full support to all branches and members in dealing with these announcements.

“We will, where necessary, work to maximise redeployment options for members and will oppose any moves to make staff redundant. The PCS will be considering all options in response to these announcements.

“These cuts are a further nail in the coffin of Llanelli. As well as the decline of industry, over the last decade we have seen hundreds of well paid jobs in the Civil Service being taken away from one of the poorest parts of Wales.

“The loss of the MoD Llangennech and the Tax office are just a two of these. We will mount a campaign to retain these DWP jobs, not only for our members but also for the vital services that the provide to the public.”

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Denial of Wales-specific Covid inquiry ‘no longer tenable’ say Welsh Conservatives

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have reiterated their call for an inquiry that focuses exclusively on the actions of the Welsh Government in tackling coronavirus in a letter to the First Minister.

It was prompted after it was revealed that the Welsh Government have been aware that NHS Wales was not prepared for an airborne virus as far back as 2004, following the SARS outbreak. Despite committing to an audit and allocation to rectify the lack of isolation facilities, this did not materialise.

The letter from Andrew RT Davies MS, which states “decision made in Wales should be scrutinised in Wales” follows a weekend when Mark Drakeford was keen to highlight that his government had “always taken a different approach in Wales [compared to the British Government], one that does things step-by-step”.

Concerned: Andrew RT Davies

In the letter, the Welsh Conservatives leader questions why, despite him stressing divergences in the approach to coronavirus, the First Minister still feels it “inappropriate to separate” from the British Government “when the time comes for accountability”.

The Labour Government policy is for its actions to be included in the UK-wide inquiry that will chiefly investigate the actions of the Conservative Government. There will be a Scotland-specific inquiry after Nicola Sturgeon commissioned one.

Joining the Welsh Conservatives in their calls for a Wales-specific inquiry are the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group, the British Lung Foundation, Medics 4 Mask Up Wales, the Institute for Welsh Affairs, and Plaid Cymru.

Commenting on the letter, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “The position of exercising wide-ranging emergency powers that curtailed the liberty and closed the economy of the Welsh people but avoiding accountability through an inquiry that focusses on how those decisions were made is no longer tenable.

“Under Mark Drakeford, Wales has experienced the highest Covid death-rate of UK nations, seen its children lose more time for learning than anywhere else in the country, and imposed economically cruel and clinically unnecessary restrictions in an overzealous attempt to tackle the Omicron variant.

“We, along with bereaved families and medical groups, believe that the decisions that led to these outcomes need to be put under the spotlight, not hidden in the shadow of an inquiry that will inevitably focus on the British Government.

“Indeed, if Mark Drakeford is so confident in the actions of his government, then why is he against having them examined in a Wales-specific inquiry? That is what people will be asking when British and Scottish leaders have ordered investigations into their own handling of the pandemic.

“As I say to the First Minister in my letter, it is not too late for him to change his mind and take this opportunity to do the right thing and order that inquiry.”

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Llanelli Rotary Christmas appeal to be match-funded by Swansea Building Society

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Llanelli Rotary Club Christmas Appeal 2022

THE LLANELLI Rotary Club Christmas appeal, which sees the club raise funds for local charities each year, will see its total donations double thanks to match-funding from Swansea Building Society.

The building society helps its staff raise charitable funds each year as part of its commitment to its members and the local communities it serves. It regards this as a direct part of its mutual status – a status that means it is owned by its members.

The ongoing pandemic and emerging new variant meant that the club arranged for Santa Claus to make Covid-friendly house visits to children prior to Christmas. This was the second year that Santa has made such house visits as an alternative to the Santa’s Grotto previously organised by the Rotary Club.

This year’s appeal visited 295 households in the Llanelli area and met 622 children to confirm the letters they had written to Santa. The funds raised from these visits, coupled with Rotary members collecting at Parc Trostre, Llanelli Carnival and the Llanelli Reindeer Parade, amounted to £5,774.

This amount will be generously match-funded by Swansea Building Society, bringing the total donation to £11,548 and this will be split between the four charities chosen by Llanelli Rotary this year: Ty Hafan, Wales Air Ambulance, Latch and Ysgol Heol Goffa.

Alison Evans, Llanelli Rotary Club Secretary, said: “Despite the ongoing difficulties, the Llanelli Rotary Club Christmas appeal has been a great success again this year. Thanks to Santa, the Rotarians, and the volunteers that helped us, we were able to put a smile on hundreds of children’s faces, whilst raising a considerable sum for four very worthwhile charities. We give great thanks to all those who donated to the appeal in the run-up to Christmas, and special thanks to Swansea Building Society for its generous match funding.”

Ieuan Griffiths, Swansea Building Society Chair and Llanelli Rotary Club member, added: “Our annual Christmas appeal is always a joyful and rewarding experience for all concerned – worth the significant effort involved just to see the childrens’ faces and reactions. We are very pleased that Santa has been able to help whilst checking out chimneys and magic keys. This year the Rotary Club has again raised considerable funds, and, with the help of Swansea Building Society’s match funding, this year’s charities will receive sizable donations. I extend my thanks to everyone who helped and all who donated.”

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BBC Wales Investigates: Death of Two Black Men: Police in the Spotlight

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TONIGHT 24/1/22, 7.30pm, BBC One Wales

THE FAMILIES of two men who died within weeks of each other after incidents involving Welsh police forces have spoken for the first time of their fight for justice.

Mohamud Hassan, 24, and Mouayed Bashir, 29, died within weeks of each other in separate incidents after coming into contact with the police.

Both their deaths sparked protests  – in Cardiff and Newport –  as family, friends and people in their communities expressed concerns about the circumstances of their deaths.

In January last year, police were called to the shared house in Roath, Cardiff, where Mohamud lived in a basement flat. Police arrested him on suspicion of a breach of the peace; he spent the night in a cell at Cardiff Bay police station; and was released the next morning without charge.

He saw his aunt, Zainab Hassan, and uncle, Sulieman Mohamed, after he was released.

“He came over to our house. As soon as I opened the door – literally I was shocked,” said Sulieman.

“His upper lip was completely opened. He had blood all over his top, his track-suit bottoms.”

Zainab added: “He had bruises on his arms. On his torso when he lifted his jumper, all you could see was just marks – red, black even. It was shocking.”

“I said nephew what happened to you? He’s like it’s the police. I said how and why? He said “I dunno uncle”,” said Sulieman.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating his death and the actions of six officers are being examined for alleged misconduct.

A post mortem examination failed to establish the cause of Mr Hassan’s death. The IOPC says its investigation is nearing completion; and his inquest is due to take place in May 2023.

South Wales Police said it was unable to comment on specific points due to the ongoing IOPC investigation, which it says it is fully co-operating with. It also acknowledged the impact of Mr Hassan’s death on his family, friends and wider community; and said their thoughts and condolences are with them.

Mouayed Bashir died after police came to his house in Maesglas, Newport, in February 2021. His family say they were trying to get an ambulance to attend because Mouayed was having a mental health crisis – but instead the police arrived.

“He was expecting paramedics, but instead police officers in black uniform with brutal force coming in,” said Mouayed’s brother, Mohannad Bashir.

Mohamud Hassan, 24, and Mouayed Bashir, 29, died within weeks of each other in separate incidents after coming into contact with the police.

Mouayed had been stabbed three weeks before his death; and when police came to his home he still had a large, deep wound to his leg.

Mohannad added: “When the police restrained him they handcuffed him, they bound his legs and thighs. My dad was saying to the police officers “he’s already wounded. He’s bleeding again from his thigh. Please let go of his handcuffs and let go of his legs.”

A post mortem examination failed to establish Mouayed Bashir’s cause of death. The IOPC says it’s finalising its investigation into his death; and its publication will depend on discussions with the coroner. His inquest is due to be held in July.

Gwent Police said it was unable to address specific questions until  the conclusion of the IOPC investigation and inquest. It pointed out that no officers have been served misconduct notices.

The force also said a risk assessment is carried out when receiving a 999 call and police officers may be asked to support paramedics. The ambulance service said it was sorry its response fell below the expectations of the Bashir family.

Mouayed Bashir’s family are planning to mark the anniversary of his death next month in Newport.

Mohannad said: “If we don’t fight and stand up for other people, for what happened to Mouayed, there’s just going to be another case. We want to do our part. We want to do this for the sake of Mouayed as well.”

The family of Mohamud Hassan will have to wait another 16 months to find out the full facts of his death.

“I can’t remember anything else about my nephew. All those lovely memories I had of him, it’s like they’ve gone. They’ve been wiped out. And I don’t have any answers. I don’t think any words can describe the pain.”

Watch BBC Wales Investigates: Death of Two Black Men: Police in the Spotlight on BBC One Wales at 19:30 GMT on Monday 24 January and afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

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