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Scrutiny row engulfs Labour leader

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A DEBATE on a routine agenda item saw Labour Group leader Rob James take a major hit to his credibility.

The item before Wednesday’s Full Council (Oct 9) and was an apparently anodyne item of business relating to the governance arrangements for the Swansea Bay City Deal.

Emlyn Dole opened the matter briefly, plainly anticipating no substantial intervention. After his brief remarks, Chair Kevin Madge appeared ready to move the business on when Cllr James caught his eye.

The Labour leader chairs the City Deal Scrutiny Committee.

He raised three issues relating to the recommendations and suggested amendments to each. Two of them were superficially anodyne and related to quorum arrangements at meetings and the transaction of business. The third related to an unspecified ‘indemnity’ for the City Deal’s Programme Director.

After some tart comments about Carmarthenshire County Council’s chequered history with such indemnities, which include retaining an unlawful indemnity within the Council constitution, Cllr James said that the points he raised were agreed by the Joint Scrutiny which he chaired and should be incorporated into the text of the draft agreements.

Cllr Emlyn Dole reacted with a combination of surprise and (more predictably) outrage.

He claimed to have received no written notification of the issues Rob James claimed were agreed by the Scrutiny Committee. As far as he was concerned, no issues arose from scrutiny which would affect the reframed agreement and nothing substantive had ever been advanced concerning those points raised by Cllr James. He added a quick jibe, saying that the proposals before the Council were agreed by the City Deal Committee in July and Cllr James had ample time to raise the issue in writing since then.

Undaunted, the Labour leader stuck to his guns and insisted that it was only right that scrutiny had a role. He repeated that the amendments he put forward had been agreed by the scrutiny committee.

At that point, advice was sought from Wendy Waters, the Council’s Chief Executive.

She confirmed that late on Tuesday afternoon a letter from Cllr James, signed as Chair of the Scrutiny Committee had been received by the Council.

Head of Legal, Linda Rees Jones confirmed that shortly after the letter arrived, raising the points made by Cllr James, draft minutes of the relevant meeting had also been received.

Cllr Dole said he had not received those documents and a row between him and Cllr James over who knew what and when broke out.

While Emlyn Dole accused Cllr James of holding up the process, again and again, Cllr James said that scrutiny was essential and could not be ignored.
At that point, Cllr Darren Price intervened. Cllr Price is also a member of the Joint Scrutiny Committee.

He told councillors that not only was his recollection of what happened at the scrutiny significantly different from Cllr James’, but also that he had not received the draft minutes sent to the Council. He said he had briefly checked his emails during the meeting and could find no trace of either the agreed text of a letter or the minutes. He said he was relying on his own memory, but did not recollect what Cllr James said happened as being a settled decision and more of a point of discussion during the committee meeting.

He was soon followed by Cllr Giles Morgan, who rose to his feet carrying his tablet computer.

Cllr Morgan could never be confused for a fan of the Labour leader.

He told the meeting that he had checked his own notes of the scrutiny committee, of which he was also a member. Cllr Morgan said his notes did not agree with the interpretation Cllr James placed on events at the meeting. He said there had been a discussion on the individual points, but no resolution relating to the committee making amendments to the documents before the Council.

The intervention by Cllrs Morgan and Price left the Labour leader with nowhere to go. He replied that he was being subjected to a personal attack on his credibility and would, therefore, abstain when the motion regarding City Deal governance went to a vote.

The substantive agreement was approved by the Council.

A wounded Cllr James might now face a considerable struggle to regain his credibility. Much will depend on him proving what he said the scrutiny committee agreed is what committee members actually approved.

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Outdoor hospitality given go-ahead and rules on mixing outdoors relaxed in Wales

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SIX people will be able to meet outdoors in Wales from Saturday 24 April while outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26 April as cases of new COVID-19 infections continue to fall, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed today.

The current rule provides for up to six people (not including children under 11 years of age or carers) from a maximum of two households to meet outdoors.

The new rules from Saturday will allow six people (not including children under 11 years of age or carers) to meet outdoors.

People should observe social distancing from people from outside their household or support bubble when meeting others outside.

The rules for meeting indoors remain unchanged.

The First Minister has also confirmed outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26th April 2021.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “The public health context in Wales remains favourable, with cases falling and our vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength. Because meeting outdoors continues to be lower risk than meeting indoors, we are able to bring forward changes to allow any six people to meet outdoors.

“This will provide more opportunities for people, especially young people, to meet outdoors with their friends. This will undoubtedly have a significant positive impact on people’s wellbeing.

“I’m also pleased to confirm outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26th April.

“These changes will help the hospitality sector recover after a difficult twelve months.

“It is thanks to the continuing efforts of people across Wales we are able to introduce this change. Together, we will continue to keep Wales safe.”

On Friday (23rd April 2021), the First Minister will confirm further relaxations to the covid rules that will come into force on Monday 26 April 2021.

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Scientists issue urgent appeal for help on ground-breaking Covid genetic study

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SCIENTISTS involved in a ground-breaking COVID-19 genetic research study are urgently asking people across Wales who caught the virus to donate a small amount of blood to their project.

To help encourage as many people as possible to join the study, volunteers are now able to quickly and easily book an appointment for a nurse to visit their home and donate a sample.

The unique GenOMICC COVID-19 Study, which is being delivered in Wales through Health and Care Research Wales, analyses the genes of people who have had the virus to discover why some experienced mild or no symptoms while others became extremely ill. The study is already contributing to the fight again COVID, with preliminary results helping identify possible new treatments.

study open to anyone who caught COVID but didn’t need hospital treatment

However, for the study to continue to make progress, the scientists urgently need to recruit 2,500 more people from all backgrounds. Along with seeking the help of members of Asian and Black communities, they’re also keen for more men to volunteer.

The home appointment system has already proved popular when the scheme was launched in Scotland and Bradford earlier this year – and with lockdown restrictions beginning to be eased in Wales, organisers are hoping for a similar response from people across the country.

“This study has one key objective – to help us understand why COVID-19 has impacted different groups in different ways,” said Dr Matt Morgan, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales and Specialty Lead for Critical Care at Health and Care Research Wales.

“Across the UK, a disproportionate number of people who ended up in hospital have been male as well as people with Asian and Black heritage – that’s why we need people from these groups in particular to join the study as soon as possible.”

“If you are eligible, please register and join the project. You’ll be making a direct contribution to helping improve our knowledge of the virus and discovering new ways of beating it.”

scientists issue urgent appeal for assistance to help them identify new treatments

Dr Kenneth Baillie, the study’s Chief Investigator, said: “We’re appealing for more volunteers from all walks of life to come forward and register. We need to find people who tested positive for COVID but experienced either mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment. To maximise the study’s potential, it’s important these volunteers are similar in age, gender and ethnicity of those people who were severely affected and hospitalised.”

Professor Sir Mark Caulfied, Chief Scientist at Genomics England added: “The quicker this research can be completed, the faster we can solve the COVID-19 puzzle and protect vulnerable people.

Genetic research into COVID-19 is now playing an increasingly important role in our fight against the virus, enabling us to identify new forms of the virus and develop treatments.

“The findings from the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study will improve the treatment, care and outcome for those most at risk and lower the number of deaths.”

Dr Nicola Williams, Director of Support and Delivery at Health and Care Research Wales, said: “It’s vital we learn as much as possible about COVID-19 and to do that we need people to volunteer to take part in research. By introducing an appointment booking system, the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study is giving people the opportunity to contribute to potentially life-saving research from their own homes. These contributions can help provide the evidence we need to give all patients the best possible outcome.”

The research project is open to anyone who tested positive to COVID-19 but experienced mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment – volunteers can register online here.

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A Llanelli household is hospitalised following reports of an “unknown substance”

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REPORTS of an “unknown substance” at a Llanelli property led to a multi-agency operation.

Police, ambulance and the fire service descended on a property in a village, just outside of Five Roads, Llanelli,  following reports of members of the household feeling unwell and the presence of an “unknown substance”.

Three members of the household in Five Roads, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire were taken to hospital as a precaution.

Emergency services were alerted to members of the household feeling unwell and the presence of an ‘unknown substance’ on Sunday, April 11 at 7.30am.

The ambulance service were first on the scene with one rapid response vehicle, four emergency ambulances and the Hazardous Area Response Team and were supported by police and the fire service.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Ambulance Service said: “We were called to a residential property in the village of Five Roads, Llanelli at 7.30am on Sunday, April 11 to reports of three people needing medical attention.

“We responded with one rapid response vehicle, four emergency ambulances and our Hazardous Area Response Team.

“Three patients were taken to Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen, for further treatment.”

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) assisted the police and ambulance service, deploying a specialist officer and an Environmental Protection Unit to the property.

The service ventilated the property and remained on the scene until 5.29pm.

A MAWWFRS spokesperson said: “At 7:44am, crews from Llanelli were called to assist the ambulance service and police at an incident in a property in Five Roads, Llanelli.

“An unknown substance was found at the property and its occupants reported feeling unwell.

“The occupants were taken to hospital by the ambulance service.”

“The incident was contained to one property and there were no concerns for the wider community of Five Roads.”

A Dyfed-Powys Police Spokesperson confirmed the force assisted in the multi-operation incident.

A spokesperson said:: “Members of one household in the village were feeling unwell, and were taken to hospital for assessment.

“They were found to have no medical concerns.

“Following examination of the scene by a number of agencies, there was no cause for further investigation into the incident.”

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