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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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Police appeal for witnesses after 20-year-old pedestrian tragically killed on A40

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is appealing for witnesses to a fatal road traffic collision on the A40 west of Carmarthen on Saturday (Sept 26) in which a 20-year-old man, a pedestrian, lost his life.

The police have asked The Pembrokeshire Herald to publicise this appeal.

A spokesman for the police told this newspaper: “At around 9.40pm, a white VW Transporter was in collision with a pedestrian on the A40 westbound, near the junction of Llangynog, Carmarthen.

“The pedestrian, a 20-year-old male, died as a result of his injuries.

“It appears the pedestrian had left his vehicle, a black Seat, following a single-vehicle collision further along the westbound carriageway shortly before.

The police have asked that if anyone has any information on either or both collisions, or may have been travelling along the A40 at the relevant time, please contact the serious collision investigation unit, quoting reference DPP-20200926-339.

This can be done by email: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, by phone on 101 or by text: If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Llanelli becomes a Covid-19 ‘health protection zone’

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RESIDENTS in a large part of Llanelli are being put under new local restrictions in a ‘health protection zone’ following a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the area.

The town is seeing a concentrated spread of cases compared with other parts of Carmarthenshire – in the last seven days, 85 positive cases have been identified in Llanelli (151.6 per 100,000 of the population) compared to 24 cases in the rest of Carmarthenshire (18.1 per 100,000 of the population).*

Public Health Wales officials are expecting numbers to continue rising over the coming week.

Carmarthenshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board have worked with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to agree the temporary restrictions at sub-county level to try and halt the spread of the virus.

As of 6pm on Saturday September 26, 2020, residents living in defined parts of Llanelli will not be able to visit anyone else’s home, or accept visitors into their home, unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ such as providing care for a vulnerable person.

They should not arrange to meet indoors with anyone who they don’t live with, and travel in and out of the ‘health protection zone’ will also be limited – people should not leave the area or travel into the area unless it is essential. Travelling in and out of the zone for a holiday is not considered a reasonable excuse.

People are being asked to wear face coverings anywhere where they cannot maintain a two-metre distance from other people, including collecting children from school, in addition to the rules which already require them to wear a face covering in indoor spaces like shops and on public transport.

All indoor and outdoor visits to residential care homes have also been suspended.

Students may still travel into and out of the ‘health protection zone’ to go to school or college.

People living in the defined area of Llanelli must work from home, and employers must take all reasonable steps to support staff to do so.

Indoor public spaces such as leisure centres should only be used by people living in the defined area.

Shops will remain open, but people living outside the defined area of Llanelli should avoid travelling to visit them and shop in their own locality wherever possible.

The specific wards covered in the defined area of Llanelli are:

  • Bigyn
  • Bynea
  • Dafen
  • Elli
  • Felinfoel
  • Glanymor
  • Hendy
  • Hengoed
  • Llangennech
  • Lliedi
  • Llwynhendy
  • Tyisha
  • Swiss Valley

Although the pattern of increased positive cases is overwhelmingly concentrated in the Llanelli area where the restrictions have been strengthened, the whole of Carmarthenshire has now been put on alert, with a warning that the tighter restrictions may be extended if cases continue to spread.

Everyone – including those in the defined areas of Llanelli – is being urged to follow the national guidance around social distancing, good hygiene, self-isolation, testing and face coverings.

Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “It is worrying to see how sharply the number of positive cases has risen in the Llanelli area, and action has had to be taken to help stop the spread and break the chain of infections concentrated in this area to prevent a whole county lockdown.

“We must all do the right thing, follow the advice and protect each other. In parts of Llanelli, we’re asking people and businesses to make even greater sacrifices – we fully appreciate the impact this will have, but there is no other way. We must stop the spread.”

A mobile testing unit has been set up in Llanelli to manage the increased demand by local residents who have any of the Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a change or loss to taste or smell or a new continuous cough.

Reporting of positive cases in the town is fully expected to rise during the next two weeks with the increase in more targeted testing. But this is a positive indicator that cases are being identified and control measures put in place.

Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “Our local community has given us such tremendous support during the past few months. To protect the health of our people, including the most vulnerable, and to ensure our NHS resources are available to provide people with the care they need; we need the help of our Llanelli population and wider community now more than ever before. Whilst hospital admissions have not yet increased again for COVID cases, we have seen a sharp rise in positive cases in the community, and in time this is likely to have an impact on hospital admissions. The very best way we can support each other and those we love, is to follow local restrictions, minimise our contacts, practice good hygiene and self-isolate and book a test if we have any COVID-19 symptoms.”

Increased testing capacity for residents in Llanelli is available by appointment at the following locations:

  • Parc y Scarlets Car Park B, accessed via Trostre Retail Park, in Llanelli
  • The Ty’r Nant site (next to KFC), Trostre, Llanelli
  • The Carmarthen showground (signposted in both directions off the A40)

There should be no reason for Llanelli residents to travel excessive distances for a test, as there will be tests available in Llanelli and Carmarthen. Tests should be booked via the UK Portal. Any Llanelli residents experiencing difficulty booking a test locally via the UK portal can instead email covidenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk or by calling 0300 333 2222.

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Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary

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The local charity Tir Coed teamed up with Cross Hands Primary School to design and install a locally grown woodland shelter to enable primary school pupils to benefit from outdoor lessons-even when
the rain pours!

Last year Cross Hands Primary School received funding from Carmarthenshire is Kind for their intergenerational project. The project brought the schoolchildren together with older people in the community. Through intergenerational activities, everyone involved increases social connectedness, reduces social isolation, learns from one another and has a great time!

Before the lockdown, Tir Coed was contracted to lead a group mainly made up of parents from the school on a shelter-building course. The attendees would gain knowledge and skills and the children and the older people would be able to use the shelter, a third generation now included in this
fantastic project. The plans, however, had to change due to restrictions and in an effort to have it ready for the children when they returned to school, three intrepid Activity Leaders braved the wet August weather to build the beautiful shelter .

Studies have shown that being in the outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the Corona Virus. With this addition to their already impressive outdoor area, it is hoped that more learning can
take place outside the classroom. Deputy Head, Emma Walters said, “It looks amazing! I am very impressed with the shelter and I cannot thank Tir Coed enough for organising this. Additional covered space in the outdoors will mean that we can take more learning into our lovely nature
area.”

If you would like to find out more about the work of Tir Coed or have a project you would like our help with you can contact Nancy, the Carmarthenshire Coordinator: carms@tircoed.org.uk

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