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Clandestine meetings at hotel

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Llanelli Town Council met this week to discuss the selling off of Parc Howard, above.

Llanelli Town Council met this week to discuss the selling off of
Parc Howard, above.

DETAILS are emerging of secret meetings between a Carmarthenshire County Council cabinet member, Carmarthenshire County Council officers and the Parc Howard Association at a local hotel.

Llanelli Town Council met on Thursday (Jun 4) to discuss the selling off of Parc Howard. The mansion and the grounds it resides in were gifted by Sir Stafford and Lady Howard Stepney to the town in January 1912 and after conversion into a park it was opened by Lady Howard Stepney on her first wedding anniversary on Saturday September 21 1912.

The Parc Howard Association exists to work with current owners Carmarthenshire County Council to maintain and improve the facilities at Parc Howard in accordance with the spirit of the original gift.

The Herald received an email stating: ‘It is a venture supported by the CCC but foisted onto the Town Council in a bid to avoid publicity. It is the usual thing with CCC whereby they try to place Community Councils in a position that if they do not support the suggestion they receive bad publicity in respect of any failure to save anything’.

It is suggested that in the meeting agenda there is a figure for cost and that is well above the tender process within the European Union for tendering. The Herald understands that Carmarthenshire County Council suggests that a joint venture with the Town Council is seemingly preferable.

This latest revelation is not the start the new council leader would have wished for.

At a meeting of Llanelli Town Council on Wednesday (Jun 3) councillors were asked a number of questions regarding the latest revelations.

The Howard family with the local council acting gifted Parc Howard to the children of Llanelli as care taker or trustee. These responsibilities were taken on by previous councils and councillors who set a precept for the maintenance of the park; this situation was inherited by Carmarthenshire County Council in 1995 and now they seek to abdicate this responsibility in a totally unacceptable manner which may even breach European Legislation regarding the tender process which has to be applied for such large invested sums of money. County Councillors including cabinet members have to pay regard to the Nolan Principles in Public Life when taking steps to enter into any kind of venture where the money involved is greater than the European Legislation allows.

Does the county council and councilors including the cabinet member with responsibility know about the legislation?

It was felt that if they did not it was a very strange situation, as the County Councillors present and the Town Councillors present knew about it.

A meeting with county council officers and county members of the previous administration had been part of a public meeting of the town council just a few months ago where none of the elements now proposed in this letter and report were aired or voiced.

Was it the intention of the county council to place the town council in an invidious position where the council was seen to be un-supportive of the plans and thereby take all the blame for the failure of the scheme?

The scheme supported by the independent councilors including the cabinet member, the chair of Parc Howard, a recent UKIP candidate for parliament, has now been inherited by the new coalition of Plaid and independents this issue needs to be dealt with by the new Plaid administration.

On the issue of tendering according to legislation

The letter from the interested party states that the County Council had led them to believe that the Llanelli Town Council had agreed to take over the Park and that there could be a joint venture with the Town Council. In doing this did the County Council hope to have a single company take this on via the Town Council without tendering; or was the plan to place all the burden and costs onto the Llanelli Town Council for something that is legally and essentially the responsibility of the County Council.

Parc Howard Association

This organisation had been involved in the plans put forward by this company and had been involved in consultation talks and meetings with the company and council officers and members, which did not include include public consultation or any real dialogue with the Llanelli Town Council on the proposals. The Chair of Parc Howard has and is organising further meetings for consultation with the Parc Howard Association and possibly the company and possibly County Council officers; however the chair did not invite or make it known to the Town Council officiate members of that committee that such meetings were taking place. These people are unelected volunteers who have no mandate from the people of Llanelli to discuss disposal of this Parc or any other property of the Carmarthenshire County Council. Indeed the only elected members with any responsibility were not made aware of any meetings this included the Two County Council Members for the Lleidi ward where Parc Howard is situated. The chair of the association is organising a public meeting on Saturday afternoon at Parc Howard at 2:15 PM. to discuss the plans for Parc Howard, As the county council administration own the venue then presumably the organization have their blessing.

The Town Council decided to send a letter to the County Council expressing their concerns and reminding the county who actually is the trustee and body capable and responsible for making and taking decisions on the matter; and those include full consultation and abiding by European legislation, abdication of such matters cannot happen neither can directing any company towards the Llanelli Town Council be considered of any joint venture agreement as the due diligence issues are the County Council’s and the new administration’s responsibility.

Llanelli Town Council will certainly wish to see a beneficial outcome to the whole affair and would act within the law and its responsibilities to its electors and council tax payers in order to ensure the probity of any such venture in the best interests of Llanelli Town and Carmarthenshire in protecting the inheritance gifted to the people of Llanelli and Carmarthenshire.

The prospective sale of Parc Howard is extremely contentious in Llanelli and has brought Nia Griffiths MP into the fray stating: ‘I am sure that people in Llanelli will be as horrified as I am to learn that UKIP’s Ken Rees, has been in secret talks about selling off Parc Howard. Back a few years ago, when I took the initiative and re-established the Parc Howard Association, the County Council’s Leisure Chief Ian Jones assured us that Parc Howard was Carmarthenshire’s “Jewel in the Crown” and not an asset they would even discuss transferring to the Llanelli Town Council, never mind sell off. Although we know that they have subsequently talked about transferring it, for Ken Rees to be in detailed talks with one purchaser is an affront to the people of Llanelli, and breaks every rule in the book. These talks must stop now’.

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Demolition of 4 Tys begins in Tyisha, Llanelli

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Four Tys

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.

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Serious assault in Ruby’s Bar Llanelli being investigated by police

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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 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-20211120-336.

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

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Labour and Plaid unveil a deal for Government

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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.

REAL-WORLD CONSIDERATIONS

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.

CONSERVATIVES EMPHASISE

EVERYDAY PRIORITIES

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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