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Granby Close fire started deliberately

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A FIRE In a block of flats which left one man in hospital and a further four families homeless was started deliberately, it was revealed this week.

In response to a question about fire safety in council-owned blocks of flats, Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans confirmed that the fire in Granby Close on November 23 of last year was ‘intentionally’ started in a stairwell.

Cllr Evans also explained that, while all council properties were compliant with regional and national safety schemes, risk assessments were being carried out on all council-owned communal blocks.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Full Council in County Hall, Glanymor county councillor Louvain Roberts said that since the fire, she had been made aware that there were no ‘tilt and turn’ windows fitted to the flats.

“I feel that this ​t​ype of ​w​indow is essential for the health and Safety of Residents,” she added, also pointing out that there were no sprinkler systems or communal fire extinguishers at these or similar blocks.

“Some residents are very frail and I realise that some have refused to move to the ground floor, but Carmarthenshire County Council is bound by a Duty of Care to ensure residents’ safety within their place of abode at all times.

“Can you please give assurances that the points I have brought to your, as well as this Council’s, attention will be rectified immediately?” she added.

Cllr Evans replied that since the fire, CCC had been carrying out deterrent work to ensure that communal stairwells were kept clean, taking enforcement action where necessary.

“There will be zero tolerance from now on,” she stressed.

Regarding the ‘tilt and turn’ windows, she explained that these were not required by housing standards for ‘very practical reasons’. Flats were designed so that people would not need to gain entrance from the window in such circumstances, and these windows could also pose ‘a major risk’ to children in upstairs flats.

Cllr Evans pointed out that sprinklers were not required by either Welsh housing standards or Carmarthenshire’s own CHS+ system. However, she added that risk assessments were currently being carried out in all communal blocks, and sprinklers were being retrofitted in sheltered housing complexes.

Fire extinguishers in communal areas could ‘cause problems’, she stated, and tenants were advised that rather than tackling fires themselves they should stay in their homes.

However, in sheltered schemes there were fire extinguishers in communal areas because these were recognised as workplaces.

Cllr Evans added that CCC’s work had been commended by the fire and rescue service.

“We have spent £800,000 of improving fire alarms and emergency lighting,” she added. Members also heard that the fire service had records of tenants registered as disabled who could be unable to leave their home unaided.

Replying, Cllr Roberts claimed that the fire had been ‘exacerbated’ by internal plastic doors which had shrivelled in the heat.

She also pointed out that one person was injured as a result of a window having to be broken, and that the fire service on the scene ‘told me that tilt and turn windows would have helped’.

Cllr Evans reiterated that an assessment of all communal buildings was currently under way.

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Wales completes move to alert level 0

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THE MOVE completes the Welsh Government’s phased lifting of the alert level 2 protections, which were put in place on Boxing Day to keep Wales safe as the omicron wave swept across the country.

Some important protections will remain in place at alert level 0, including mandatory face coverings in most indoor public places, including on public transport.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the relaxation of protections was possible thanks to the hard work of everyone in Wales and the success of the vaccination programme – more than 1.8 million booster doses have been given.

And, since the start of December, more than 36,000 people have come forward to have their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We have passed the peak of this omicron wave and there are encouraging signs that cases of coronavirus may be starting to stabilise. But we all need to continue taking steps to stay safe – unfortunately the pandemic is not over yet.

“We are moving to alert level 0 and we will retain some important protections, such as face coverings in most indoor public places and risk assessments.

“We can do this thanks to the hard work and efforts of everyone in Wales and the remarkable success of our vaccine and booster programmes. Thank you all.”

On Friday 28 January, Wales will complete the move to alert level 0. This means:

  • Nightclubs can re-open.
  • The general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces will be removed.
  • The rule of six will no longer apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
  • Licensed premises will no longer need to only provide table service and collect contact details. The Covid Pass will continue to be required to enter larger indoor events, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert halls.
  • Working from home will remain important but it will no longer be a legal requirement.
  • Businesses, employers and other organisations must continue to undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus, which may include 2m social distancing or controlled entry.

Face-covering rules, which apply on public transport and in most public indoor places will remain in force after 28 January, with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs, cafes and nightclubs.

Everyone must also continue to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus but the Welsh Government has reduced the self-isolation period from seven to 5 full days.

People are advised to take 2 negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on days 5 and 6. The self-isolation support scheme payment will return to the original rate of £500 for all those who are eligible.

The next 3-weekly review of the coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 10 February, when all the measures at alert level 0 will be reviewed.

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Police investigating suspicious fire at Vodafone mast tower in Llanelli

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE are investigating a fire which caused significant damage to a service room at the Vodafone mast tower in Bigyn Road, Llanelli.  

The fire, which is being treated as suspicious, happened sometime between 10pm on Monday 24th and 2.30am on Tuesday 25th January 2022.

No-one was injured in the fire.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation, or anyone who has CCTV or dash cam footage of the area at the time. is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: DP-20220125-075.

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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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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