C A R M A R T H E N S H I R E COUNTY COUNCIL’s decision to up its Council Tax by 4.85% was the subject of fierce debate at Friday’s (Mar 6) council meeting. Jeff Edmunds, who presented the Council Tax increase proposals claimed: “We have set a prudent budget and a prudent council tax. Taking £6m from our reserves, would mean a black hole in next year’s budget which we would have to fill.”
However, Cllr Edmunds claims were attacked by Plaid Cymru’s Alun Lenny, who pointed out that Rhondda Cynon Taff Council had used its reserves, of a similar level to Carmarthenshire’s, to reduce the impact of service cuts and to avoid an ‘inflation-busting’ rise in Council Tax. The Valleys council had used £4.3m of its reserves to balance its budget and, according to Cllr Lenny, it was inexplicable that Carmarthen could not use the same.
Cllr Lenny told councillors that Labour’s own Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Public Services Minister, had strongly implied that the Welsh Government felt the reserves of some Welsh councils were too high and that councils should use that money to bankroll services and avoid cuts. Alun attack was met with a furious response from council leader Kevin Madge, who claimed that Plaid’s proposals in relation to the use of reserves were irresponsible and smacked of last-minute opportunism than any deep thought on the issue.
Mr Madge did not address Cllr Lenny’s accusation that Plaid had asked for the reserve figures during the budget consultation process and had not been provided with them. Cllr Dai Jenkins for Plaid suggested that Mr Madge’s contribution to the debate had been long on rhetoric but short on actual content. He pointed out that the Labour leader had spent his entire peroration speaking of buildings and roads, without thinking of the services the council was supposed to supply. Describing himself as ‘a geek’, Cllr Jenkins revealed that he had calculated that per head of population, Carmarthenshire’s reserves were around £661, compared to a figure of £148 per head for Cardiff.
Carmarthenshire’s reserves were behind only Rhondda Cynon Taf’s and Swansea’s in size. Elwyn Hughes for Plaid proposed using £1.2m of the council’s £122m reserves to enable a lower tax of three per cent to be set. Instead the ruling Labour/ Independent coalition chose to vote for the series of cuts to services, including £18,000 off the grant to Myrddin Special and Autistic Unit, and waved through the 4.85% increase.
Demolition of 4 Tys begins in Tyisha, Llanelli
WORK to demolish the Four Tys housing blocks in Tyisha, Llanelli has started, marking the next exciting step in Carmarthenshire County Council’s plans to Transform the area.
The demolition work is set to be completed by civil engineering contractor Walters over the next 20 weeks and will enable the build of modern, mixed-use housing which meets the needs of the community.
Improvements to existing homes and the creation of community facilities and green spaces will also form part of changes on the horizon for Tyisha.
Cllr Linda Davies Evans, chair of the Transforming Tyisha steering group and cabinet member for housing said: “The demolition of the Four Tys marks an important step in the Transforming Tyisha project. Although this process will evoke powerful memories for many of the people who have lived and worked in Tyisha since the Four Tys were built in the 1960s, their demolition will enable us to provide the housing and facilities that the community needs.
Local residents and businesses who may be impacted by the demolition process will be contacted throughout to ensure minimum disruption.”
This forms a part of the council’s ambitious plans to regenerate the Tyisha ward and the wider Llanelli town centre area which is undergoing massive investment.
The council is also seeking a partner to develop new housing and create a vibrant community. An early market engagement exercise is currently live which gives potential partners the opportunity to express their interest in working with the council to transform the area.
Fresh and innovative ideas for this exciting project can be submitted to the council until December 7.
For more information on the early market engagement process or the council’s Transforming Tyisha regeneration project please visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/tyisha
The demolition of the ‘Four Tys’ forms part of the council’s ambitious Transforming Tyisha project which looks to regenerate the area through increasing community safety, developing housing and community facilities and improving the environment.
Serious assault in Ruby’s Bar Llanelli being investigated by police
POLICE are investigating a serious assault which occurred in Ruby’s Bar, Llanelli, between 10:40pm and 11pm on Saturday, November 20.
A 35-year-old man received injuries which required hospital treatment.
A 31-year-old female and a 36-year-old male have been arrested on suspicion of assault. Both have been released on bail pending further police enquiries.
Anyone who witnessed, or took footage of, the incident, or anyone who has any information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, 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-20211120-336.
Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.’
Labour and Plaid unveil a deal for Government
ON MONDAY (November 22), Labour and Plaid Cymru announced an agreement to stitch up the Senedd for the next three years.
Amid much self-congratulation, Adam Price and Mark Drakeford hailed their success at reaching an agreement.
Labour promises to deliver the bits of its Manifesto with which Plaid agrees and considers delivering the bits of Plaid’s Manifesto that it finds unobjectionable.
WHAT THEY SAY
A joint press release says: “The agreement is a joint policy programme covering 46 areas, ranging from the delivery of free school meals to all primary school pupils; a commitment to take immediate and radical action to address the second homes crisis, to long-term reform of the Senedd.
“This is a new form of political working arrangement. The two partners – the Welsh Government and the Plaid Cymru Senedd Group – will work together to jointly develop and oversee the delivery of the policies covered by the agreement over the coming three years.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The Welsh Government has an ambitious Programme for Government, which it will deliver over this Senedd term. But we do not have a monopoly on good ideas, and we will work with progressive parties where we have shared and common interests to benefit people in Wales.
“This Co-operation Agreement brings the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru together to respond to some of the most pressing issues facing Wales today, such as climate change and the energy and cost-of-living crisis.
“We can achieve more for people in Wales by working together, and the Co-operation Agreement is both a response to the external challenges we face and a chance to build on the opportunities in our future. It will also help us secure a stable Senedd over the next three years, capable of delivering radical change and reform.
“These commitments build on our shared values of social solidarity, a sustainable planet and a vibrant democracy.”
Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru, said: “Almost a quarter of a century ago, people in Wales voted for self-government for Wales, with a promise of a new type of politics.
“They placed their trust in a new democracy with an instruction to work differently – inclusively and co-operatively.
“The challenges we face require real ambition to deliver radical ideas. The fallout from leaving the European Union, the legacy of the pandemic, and the UK Government’s determination to erode the Senedd’s powers all increase the need for transformational change.
“Taken together, the bold policy pledges will unite Wales and benefit every generation, from all primary school pupils receiving free school meals to a national care service, free at the point of need.
“I am pleased this pioneering Co-operation Agreement is founded on common ground on a range of issues that will make a long-lasting difference to people’s lives.”
As part of the agreement, a publicly owned energy company for Wales could be created to encourage community-owned renewable energy generation; there will be further investment in flood defences and new measures to strengthen the Welsh language and support for young people’s mental health.
This is a bespoke agreement – it is not a coalition; Plaid Cymru Members will not be joining the Welsh Government as Ministers or Deputy Ministers. Plaid Cymru will appoint a designated lead member for the agreement. Committees of Welsh Ministers and Plaid Cymru designated members will be established to agree on issues covered by the Co-operation Agreement.
Funding has been put in place as part of the Co-operation Agreement and reflected in the draft Budget published in December.
All issues outside the Co-operation Agreement will be handled in the normal course of political engagement.
THE FALL OF ADAM:
FROM HIGH IDEALS TO BASE REALITY
Before May’s election, Adam Price spoke about his “despair” at the prospect of five more years of Labour Government, of Labour’s failures in Wales, and how Wales deserved better.
It turns out what he meant was that he was happy to support Labour in exchange for many things Labour said it was going to do anyway.
The prospect of last week’s Welsh Food Bill (supported by Plaid) ever hitting the statute book has taken a massive step backwards. Instead, there’s likely to be a continuation of the current Welsh Government strategy of discussing whether to consult before talks about holding talks.
Labour hailed its thirty seats in May’s election as a massive endorsement for its policies. Voters rejected those policies in large parts of Wales, where the fight for seats was between Plaid and the Conservatives.
Bolting strong anti-Labour sentiment in traditionally Plaid supporting areas did not end well for Plaid after the One Wales Government.
It is hard to see the crustier members of the Party of Wales reconciling themselves to backing Labour in a Senedd many of them regard as not speaking for their concerns about language, culture, and rural Wales.
Setting unionism aside, the divide between rural Plaid voters and the Conservatives is a lot narrower than Plaid in Cardiff Bay would like to accept.
However, the signs that the parties would reach an agreement have been obvious for some time, notably at First Minister’s Questions.
Over recent weeks, Adam Price’s questions to Mark Drakeford played out like a charade.
The Plaid leader repeatedly invites the Labour leader to comment about the awfulness of the Westminster Government, and the Labour leader obliges and agrees with Mr Price about how awful it is.
The searching scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s actions one might expect from the Plaid leader has been from Mr Price’s questions.
All of which suggests both he and Mark Drakeford are more concerned about what Westminster is or isn’t doing than what the party in power in Wales is or isn’t doing.
It’s all been rather like the occasion when Margaret Thatcher, faced with short-term political difficulty, was asked by Pembrokeshire’s former MP Nicholas Bennett to list her Government’s achievements.
As someone who prides himself on his command of language and speech-making, Mr Price seems to have reconciled himself to the idea that it’s better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
When it comes to political idealism against political reality, Mr Price has shown himself a pragmatist.
With 45 Senedd members, Labour plus Plaid, the numbers stack up arithmetically to increase the number of MSs and change the electoral system.
The losers in such a change, Plaid and Labour calculate, will be the Conservatives.
Increasing the number of Senedd members has long been a Labour goal. In the last Senned term, Labour lacked the numbers to make the change: now it does.
An increase in the number of Senedd members works only if a larger Senedd gets things done and gets them done faster and better.
Labour’s record on introducing primary legislation to the Senedd is weak. For example, it is still wrangling over the scope of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act passed in 2015, two Senedd elections ago.
There is, however, an issue that might cut through any proposed enlargement: public opinion.
Plaid’s and Labour’s recent rhetoric could come back to haunt them.
For the last two years, the Labour Government has lamented the powers being stripped away from it by the Conservative Government in Westminster.
Adam Price has agreed that the Conservatives have stolen powers and breached promises over finance at every turn.
If, as Labour and Plaid claim, the beastly Westminster Parliament is stealing away its power to do anything, the question arises as to why – with fewer effective powers at its disposal – Wales needs more Senedd Members.
A larger Senedd will not hinder a Conservative majority government in London from doing what it wants, and it would be neither more nor less legitimate than the current arrangement.
The result of sixty out of eighty Senedd members complaining when nobody’s listening will be no different than forty-five out of sixty.
A larger Senedd will not mean more powers in Cardiff unless Westminster grants them.
A larger Senedd must mean smaller (and possibly fewer) County Councils.
A larger Senedd might also mean a more openly centralised approach to Wales’s shambolic and chaotic health and social care provision.
The powers the agreement allows the Welsh Government to use are ones it already has – ones a Conservative Government granted it.
Wisely, the Welsh Conservative response to the deal does not over-egg the constitutional pudding.
It emphasises priorities for the Government over the party’s too-frequent claims of ‘constitutional chaos’.
A spokesperson said: “This deal fails to deliver on the priorities of the people of Wales.
“It does nothing to address the crisis in our NHS; nothing to improve our ailing Welsh infrastructure; and nothing to fire up our sluggish economy.
“Prioritising more politicians and constitutional reform over action to secure treatment for the one in five on an NHS waiting list or improving take-home pay for the low paid is appalling.
“Yet again, Plaid has betrayed its voters with another deal that cements a failing Labour administration into power for years to come.
“The message to voters is clear; vote Plaid, get Labour, and vote Labour, get Plaid. Only the Welsh Conservatives can deliver the real change that Wales needs.”
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