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Calls for order at Parc meeting

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Controversial: Meeting chair Ken Rees

Controversial: Meeting chair Ken Rees

THE HERALD attended an explosive public meeting of the Parc Howard Association on Saturday (June 6).
Prior to the meeting, this newspaper asked members of the public for their views. Jean Prior, who was visiting the park with her family and said: “The park was gifted to the children of Llanelli. It is a disgrace that there are plans to sell it off. It belongs to the people and the people should have the say in what happens to it.”
Liz Lewis of Felinfoel Road was attending the park with her grandchildren. She said: “I have been coming here for years with my children and now my grandchildren. I had a flyer through the door to invite me to an open meeting, but I had no idea what the agenda was, which was the privatisation of this park, which is an outrage. It is ours – they cannot sell it off. The people of Llanelli should decide what happens to this park.”
Before the meeting commenced, The Herald was approached by Tony Rees, who is an associate of the company Loca Venture Ltd.
Mr Rees asked: “Who gave you the information in your article on Friday (June 5)?”
When told that that information is confidential, he said: “It was Bill Thomas, he’s the one who gave you that, I’ve got evidence. He’s in trouble too, pass it on to him.
“I’m ex News of the World, that is libellous. It’s a disgraceful article. The damage is done, there are people ready to put money into this venture, and you may just have destroyed that – that’s how irresponsible you are.
“I don’t know who your editor is, but there’s going to be trouble over this. Our lawyers will be contacting him. Trust me, he’s on his a**e over it. You warn him.”
The meeting commenced at 2.15 pm. Chairman, Ken Rees struggled to control the meeting from the start, and there did not appear to be a clear agenda for discussion.
Numerous members of the public filled the room, seated in front of the lone figure of Mr Rees sitting behind an enormous table. Some stood in the doorway and out in the foyer, such was the interest and concern over the proposals for the park.
First to question Ken Rees was Cllr Jan Williams, who requested that he confirmed the amount of reserves Carmarthenshire County Council held. Councillor Bill Thomas told the meeting that the reserves covered all the schemes in place or ready to be implemented, and it was misleading to say the council had £120 million in reserve.
A member of the public asked why there was a delay from the County Council in answering questions when ‘we are paying them’. Cllr Jan Williams said that the Town Council were waiting for answers from the County Council before they could consider any proposals.
Cllr Bill Thomas said: “We have had meetings with the County Council to begin the process of looking at Parc Howard and other parks. We can’t charge for concurrent services.
“If we were to take on the whole of the parks for Llanelli and be equal to everybody, the cost would be around £400,000. Our precept is £800,000.
“Parc Howard costs £200,000 a year to run and the County Council are still paying for the running of Parc Howard.
“The original gift was to the children of the town. The trustees were the council. This is an asset. Last week, the Town Council were placed in an invidious position where a company were requesting a 250-year lease. We have no intention of giving it away. The chairman has been in meetings with a company who intend getting this asset.
“Ken Rees brought the people there to speak to our clerk. It is clear that the intention was for them to take a 250-year lease. If they get into difficulty the asset is lost. We have secret meetings going on with a company according to the figures I have seen who have minus £40,000 assets.
“The council must have an opportunity to look at this the same way they looked at Llanelli House.”
Ken Rees said: “My attendance was as chairman of the association. Two meetings were held in public places. I have not been in any dealings whatsoever. I was there as the chairman of this association.”
When Cllr Jan Williams asked: “Did you invite all the members of the association to this meeting?” Ken Rees said: “Had I invited the county councillors I would have involved them in declaring an interest. This company have offered the looking after of the park. The park would remain in the hands of the County Council. What they (Loca Venture Ltd) were looking at was tenure of the mansion house.”
Councillor Thomas said: “You (Ken Rees) arranged that meeting and contacted our clerk.”
Katrina, an association member told Ken Rees: “I have challenged you about your association with this company in an ordinary committee meeting and I advised you then that you are in danger of bringing this association into disrepute.
“You are in danger of sullying the objectivity. When you met with them and members of the Town Council, you did so under your initiative. I as a member of the committee, knew nothing about it.
“You were not representing the committee or me. If this situation continues, I personally will call for your resignation at the next committee meeting.”
Councillors told Ken Rees that they had questioned the proposals and had only recently had information on the company. Former editor of the Carmarthen Journal, Robert Lloyd asked for clarification on the identity of the company. He asked if company members were in the room.
Mr Lloyd said: “All we seem to get is that it is a mystery company with mystery people behind it. In order to be transparent, we need to know who this company is. The County Council have asked this mystery company to investigate possibilities for the park.”
Katrina said: “The council received an unsolicited private request,” to which Ken Rees replied: “They (the company) have met officers of the County Council and they were due to meet Mr Mark James. I understand they have met with Wendy Walters and Mr Jonathan Fern.”
Katrina asked Mr Rees: “You asked Mr Lawler to speak to the company (Loca Venture Ltd) on the phone, and what that man (company representative) said was that he was hoping to avoid the tender process.”
Cllr Thomas said: “You know full well that this kind of business has to be tendered. We were made well aware by County Council officers that a tender process had to be followed.
“Last week’s agenda for the Town Council on that was the requirement of the company for a 250-year lease. You had a meeting in the Diplomat and we were not invited.”
Cllr Thomas Jr said: “They are looking for freehold and they are looking at moving the museum.”
Ken Rees replied: “They indicated to me verbally that they would open a new museum on the bypass road.”
At this point, Tony Rees stood up and said: “This is a shambles, places like this end up getting boarded up and bulldozed. I am from Porthcawl and I know this area very well.”
He was asked if he was a representative of the company, to which he said: “I know some of the people involved.”
The chair was asked if he (Tony Rees) was introduced as a member of the company at the meeting at the Diplomat, to which he said he was.
Katrina asked Tony Rees: “What were you doing there if you were not a member of the Association or the Council?”
Cllr Thomas called on the chair to ask Tony Rees to leave the meeting on a number of occasions, stating that he was ‘a representative of the company and was trying to flannel people with promises of what would be done’. Mr Thomas said: “Nobody knows what will happen.”
Nia Griffth MP said: “We need to get things in the right order and understand the democratic process. The park is under the county council and it is only the county council who can make definitive decisions about what happens to it.
“We re-established the association to give our opinions but we don’t own the park. We feel very frustrated but first of all the county has to decide where it is going and the county is exploring this avenue with town and rural councils regarding a number of parks in the area.
“They have to have those talks and then make those decisions about what they do with their remaining assets. If it does want to franchise out, there are all sorts of proper rules and regulations about how that is done.
“If people are meeting with one particular company breaks every rule in the book. We have to get back into doing things in the right order and within the frameworks.”
When asked why the company was seeking anonymity, the chair said he was safeguarding confidentialities and that he was in the meeting with the representatives of the company. Eventually the company were named as Loca Ventures Ltd.
Tony Rees got up to speak, but was interrupted and asked if the company was a limited company. A member of the public interjected and said: “It seems to me Mr. Chairman that you have a serious conflict of interest.”
Tony Rees stood up once more and said he would pass on to the company many of the intelligent questions that were being asked.
The chair was told that allowing Tony Rees to speak was ‘out of order’.
Cllr Thomas insisted: “This gentleman (Tony Rees) has been associated with the company. He has been in a meeting and introduced to members of the committee at the Diplomat hotel. As chairman you should ask this gentleman to leave. He has a vested interest.”
A member of public raised the issue of legality and asked if the county council could sell off the park.
Councillor Bill Thomas said: “We have fought to stop developments here including plans for housing. There is a museum here, the house is here, there are treasures here and there is land here. Every time something comes up we have fought on your behalf.
“Do you think we want to see cars in this park where children cannot play? Do you think we want to see conference and wedding venues at this park? He has made sure that this gentleman (Tony Rees) is in the audience to try and persuade you that things can be done.”
Ken Rees agreed, saying: “You are right Bill, I am not denying anything you say.”
Cllr Jan Williams said: “We will defend this park. Your local representatives are here. We will not sell the park.”
Speaking to The Herald outside following the meeting, Nia Griffith said: “It is a priority to have this park for future generations. I want this association to have a meeting with Meryl Gravelle here. She is an executive member who is ultimately responsible. We can put the point to her that we want to keep this park in public ownership for public use.”
Association member, Katrina told Ken Rees: “You have been misguided in what you have been up to and I have to serve you notice that I will ask for your resignation at the next meeting.”
Keith Davies AM said: “Ken Rees has been misled by the County Council and the company Loca Ventures Ltd. I agree fully with Councillor Bill Thomas.”
Following the meeting he said: “The most important thing for me was that an associate of the private company was there giving general advice.
Cllr Jan Williams said: “He (Tony Rees) was masking himself as a member of the public. He did not declare that he was an associate of the company Loca Ventures Ltd.”
As of 2013, Loca Ventures had £973 cash in the bank, and he company director is Mohammed Fiaz Hussain from London.

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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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