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Burry Port Mayor hits back at bully accusations

Thomas Sinclair

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FOLLOWING recent accusations of bullying at Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council, the Mayor David Owens and his Deputy have been moved to make an official statement.

Councillors appealed for calm at an extraordinary meeting held a fortnight ago, following scenes at the end of the previous meeting which was suspended.

The Herald attended the extraordinary meeting, at which public and press were issued with guidance on how to behave.

County Councillor for Burry Port John James alleged that Plaid Cymru’s Peter Freeman was ‘trying to get me off the council’ and referred to an email allegedly sent by independent Mike Theodolou accusing him of making malicious accusations.

In their joint statement, Cllrs David Owens and Bob John said: “As Mayor and Deputy Mayor we have maintained a silence in the press and social media in the belief that the responsible thing to do was to deal with confidential staff issues within the Council. Unfortunately Cllr John James’ recent comments, and the recent Star headline, cannot go unchallenged.

“At the heart of the problem is the decision of a member of staff to resign after ​11 months in the post. When he informed the Mayor of his decision he was asked to take 24 hours to reconsider his decision and to also talk to his family. The following day he informed the Mayor that he had decided to go and asked that he be allowed to leave straight away.​”​

It must be made perfectly clear that nobody asked him to resign, in fact the Mayor asked him to consider his actions carefully when he wanted to resign.

“Since that time there has been repeated insistence by the Labour Group that discussions be held in public about his resignation despite the strong advice from the Town Clerk, the County Council Monitoring Officer and the Ombudsman that this should not happen. We must also point out that in the last five years when Labour were in control and Labour Mayors chaired the Council meetings they ended almost every meeting of the Council by excluding the public and the press so that we could deal with staff and ex-staff issues.

“By insisting that we comply with the advice, and that we remain professional and responsible, the Independent Councillors have suffered harassment, personal attacks and verbal abuse. Some Independent Councillors have also reported to us that they have been intimidated and bullied by people who attended the Council meeting on September​ ​
21​. It was for that reason that Police presence was felt necessary at the following meeting on October​ ​13​.​”​

Following his resignation the Council took the opportunity to change the requirements and the status of the job to better fit the growing demands on the Council and advertised the job accordingly.

“A month after he resigned and following some intense interventions on his behalf by some Labour Councillors, the former member of staff informed the Council that he had changed his mind and would like his job back. However, this was a job that no longer existed following the changes by the Council. He was informed that the job had been advertised, meaning that it was open to anyone to apply.

“The former member of staff clearly did not like the Council’s answer and subsequent events suggest that he commenced a campaign with his supporters to intimidate and force the Council to give him what he wanted. It is sad that some Labour Councillors are putting pressure on the rest of us and disrupting the normal work of the Council.

“Members of the public and the press are welcome to attend Council Meetings but as a result of the behaviour of some at the meeting held on September ​21, ​the Town Clerk deemed it necessary to issue Guidance on the admission of the public and press to Council meetings​.

“There are​,​ however​,​ occasions when the public and press are excluded as Cllr John James, a former Mayor, is fully aware and has himself excluded them in almost every meeting during his tenure.​”​

Finally during the meeting of September ​21, ​Cllr John James as the leader of the Labour group on the Town Council attempted to intimidate the Mayor into holding a public discussion on an ex- staff issue while the former member of staff was present in the audience. In his unwise and unprofessional attempt he carried out an attack on the Mayor and the Town Clerk which was unprecedented, disrespectful and insulting.

​”​His behaviour was unacceptable and does not represent the professional way in which the Council should conduct its business. It was for this reason that the meeting was suspended in order to ensure that the Council’s reputation was protected.”

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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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Government ban on knives, firearms and offensive weapons has come into force across Wales

Carli Newell

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A TOUGH ban on a wide range of knives, weapons, and specific firearms comes into force on Wednesday (July 14) as part of Government action to tackle violent crime and serious violence.

Cyclone knives, spiral knives and ‘rapid-fire’ rifles are among those covered by the ban, all of which have been associated with serious violence in communities across the country.

A new legal definition of flick knives, banned since 1959, also takes effect, resulting in more of these bladed weapons being outlawed.

All weapons banned in public by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, including zombie knives, shuriken or death stars and knuckledusters, will now also be banned in private, meaning people can no longer keep them at home.

Anyone unlawfully possessing a firearm covered by the ban will face up to 10 years in prison and those possessing one of the other weapons can be sentenced to up to six months imprisonment or a fine or both.

Assistant Chief Constable Sacha Hatchett said: “The harm caused to families and communities through the tragic loss of life relating to knife crime is devastating and that is why focusing on this issue remains a top priority for policing.

“We welcome the changes to legislation being introduced by the Offensive Weapons Act. These measures will help officers to seize more dangerous weapons, deal with those intent on using them to cause harm and suffering, and crucially, make it more difficult for young people to get hold of knives and other dangerous items in the first place.

“Knife crime is not something that can be solved by policing alone. We are working closely with partners and with groups such schools and businesses to educate young people and explain why carrying a knife is never the right choice. This early intervention plays a vitally important role in stopping young people from turning to a life of crime.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “There is no place in our society for violent crime and harm caused by such knives and firearms. Lives have been lost through serious violence, and this ban will help save lives by getting more knives and other weapons off the streets and out of the hands of violent criminals.

“The human suffering and hurt caused by the tragic loss of life through violent crime is unacceptable, which is why the Government will stop at nothing to give the police the powers needed to stop violent crime and protect the public.

“From today, anyone possessing one of these deadly weapons unlawfully will face the full force of the law.”

The provisions are set out in the Government’s Offensive Weapons Act, which received Royal Assent in May 2019.

From December 2020 to March 2021, the Government ran a scheme allowing members of the public to surrender to the police any items that fell within the new ban and claim compensation from the Home Office.

During the period, 14,965 knives and offensive weapons, 1,133 ‘rapid fire’ firearms (as defined within the Offensive Weapons Act) and more than 32,000 items of ancillary equipment were surrendered, with the Home Office receiving and processing 829 claims for compensation.

The Government is also reminding members of the public about forthcoming changes to the law around antique firearms.

The Antique Firearms Regulations 2021, introduced in March this year, provides for the first time a legal definition of ‘antique firearm’ to prevent criminals exploiting a lack of clarity in law to gain possession of such a weapon for use in crime.

Owners of firearms which have ceased to be antiques as a result of the 2021 Regulations have until 22 September this year to apply to the police for a firearms certificate, which allows them to own these weapons legally. Alternatively, they can surrender, sell or otherwise dispose of the firearm before 22 September.

Police continue to urge anybody to contact them should they know of anybody involved with illegal weapons to contact them via the website or by calling 101. Alternatively contact can also be made via Crimestoppers, anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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