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’.
Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd
PAUL DAIVES MS quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning.
The Conservatives’ Chief Whip also quit his frontbench role.
The dramatic move comes only 24 hours after Mr Davies got the Conservative Senedd Group’s unanimous backing.
However, later yesterday (Friday, Jan 21) – as criticism poured in – the Welsh Conservatives’ Executive met. In that meeting, Constituency Chairs reported widespread disbelief and anger among the Party’s members. Conservative Party Chair, Lord Davies of Gower, received particular criticism for a lack of leadership. Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, also attended the meeting and was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling within the Party.
In a statement issued via the Conservative Senedd media office, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on Tuesday and a beer on Wednesday.
I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.
“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.
“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.
“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.
“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.
“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”
“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”
Darren Millar blamed ‘wildly inaccurate and unfair reports’ and said:
“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.
“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.
“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.
“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Whoever replaces Paul Davies, the role is likely to an interim appointment ahead of a vote of the Party membership after the Senedd election.
Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach
THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.
Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.
The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.
Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.
The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.
The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.
In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.
If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.
With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.
If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.
If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.
The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.
Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.
The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.
During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.
They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.
A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.
“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”
Family tribute to Carole Patricia Fowler
Carole was a teacher for 30 years at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Llanelli. She loved children and they loved her.
As one of her past colleagues said: “I know she made such a difference to every child she taught.” She was very popular with staff and well respected and loved by parents. She was dedicated and conscientious, always 100% for the children. She led the music there and was always popular with her guitar accompaniments for services and concerts.
Likewise, she was a valued member of the choir at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Gendros, Swansea, where she would often accompany hymns with her guitar and gave guitar lessons to the children in the church’s Saturday Music Club. She was also a keen member of Côr Persain, Ammanford.
She was talented, loved and in demand. A convicted and devout Catholic all her life, through good and bad.
Carole was an avid and very gifted crocheter and was always crocheting or knitting something for someone. She had been spending her time recently, during the Covid crisis, crocheting NHS teddies in scrubs and rainbows, with many given to practising nurses. Carole had recently started learning to make bobbin lace. She was also capable of some very decent sewing, too.
She was also learning Welsh, doing ‘pilates’ and was considering taking up yoga lessons as well.
She was a busy lady! As one of her work colleagues said of her: “She was wise, strong, beautiful, generous, devout and feisty. And I loved her for all those qualities.”
Above all, she was an immeasurably loved Mam, daughter, sister and a doting Mamgu and so much loved by her fiancé. Having been together for 14 years, they would have been married last July 20th had covid allowed!
Her premature passing at 61 is tragic and she is already sorely, painfully missed. She leaves behind a huge chasm in so many hearts that cannot be filled.
“Eternal rest grant unto her, o Lord, may perpetual light shine about her, may she rest in peace.”
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