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Council rejected ‘honest solution’

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‘Nothing to do with us’: Claims Council

‘Nothing to do with us’: Claims Council

A LLANELLI man has been fighting for answers from Carmarthenshire County Council regarding building work which took place on a neighbour’s property leaving his own home in what has been stated by numerous experts as in a ‘dangerous state’. Clive Edwards of Felinfoel Road has been struggling to get answers to questions regarding a number of issues. For 27 years Mr Edwards has sought answers and has been given the run around by council officers. Now, The Herald can expose that a report which recommended that the council hold its hands up and admit its error in a building dispute was concealed from Mr Edwards and the owner of the neighbouring property for 18 years.

Setting out the options to resolve the situation, the report’s author, G.A. Stephens, discounts options likely to be unacceptable to the owners of the neighbouring properties and recommends: ‘The Council admits to the fact that the wall should not have been approved in that condition and offers a contribution towards the cost of demolishing and rebuilding…’ Mr Stephens goes on to observe: ‘This is in my opinion the honest solution it may however make the Council liable in allowing the matter to drag on for 8 years and compensation claims could be made against the Council’. Instead of acting upon its recommendations, however, the council buried it and subsequently changed its position in 2002, claiming that counsel’s advice, in relation to which it claims legal privilege, suggests that the dispute is nothing to do with the council at all.

After burying the report, the council proceeded to fob off the parties. In 2002, when 12 years had elapsed since the defective works had been signed off, the matter reached the Executive Board. The Board was presented with legal advice from an external barrister. That advice ignored Mr Stephens’ ‘honest’ solution and any suggestion that the council make good on the grossly deficient approval given by a building inspector. It is apparent from the content of a letter from council employee Mark James to Nia Griffith MP dated July 10, 2007 that the council now claimed that regardless of the failings of the building inspector, it rejected civil liability for their incompetence. That letter also reveals that a police investigation was STILL ongoing into the works, the payment of grant money relating to them to a building company, and the circumstances which led to them being signed off as satisfactory.

It is not clear whether the Executive Board which approved the new line in 2002 was ever made aware of the report prepared by Mr Stephens some six years before. Even if they had been made aware of it – and if they were, the good faith of those members aware of its existence at that time, if any, is open to reasonable doubt – by 2002 the costs of compensating the property owners would have risen far above whatever they were in 1996. While it appears bizarre, however, that the council was prepared to change its position so dramatically, the owners of 41 and 43 Felinfoel Road were deliberately kept in the dark. The 1996 report’s existence only emerged after a Freedom of Information Act request made in 2014.

Until then, the council had not informed the parties of the proposal it contained to settle the matter 18 YEARS before the Freedom of Information Act request was made. Mr Edwards maintains that the 1996 report, had it been supplied to all concerned, would have enabled the proper course of action to take place. Instead, he says that the council undertook huge expenditure in defending a position the 1996 report conceded. If that was not bad enough, regardless of the content of the 1996 report, in 1991 the council had acknowledged its error in signing off the works by issuing an enforcement notice against the developer. The enforcement notice failed because the council had failed to issue it within the time limits set by statute. Cllr William Thomas who represents Mr Edwards as a County Councillor told the Herald: “I inherited this case in 1995 from the MP Denzil Davies. The case was at the time 7 years old.

The reports generated by both public and private experts on planning and building regulations that I read at that time clearly identified serious breaches of planning and building regulations under the 1989 Planning Act and 1984 Building Act.” Cllr Thomas continued: “The police recommended prosecution. I have written to two Welsh Assembly Ministers, the Planning Minister and Local Government Minister. The Ministers recommended speaking to the Ombudsman who is involved, however it is an option to request the Llanelli MP to refer this case to the Attorney General.” Cllr Thomas’ involvement in the case has resulted in a furious email from Mark James dated June 15, 2015.

In that email, Mr James berates Cllr Thomas for his involvement in the case and – in the spirit of the protocol governing officer members relations – goes on to call Cllr Thomas ‘misguided’, claims he has slandered officers, and suggests that he has ‘a file of documents’ to support proceedings in the High Court against Cllr Thomas. The email containing those comments, which are themselves capable of being construed as a barely veiled threat of legal action, accuses Cllr Thomas of trying to bully officers. In 2014, the Wales Audit Office determined that the council’s practice of issuing officers with indemnities for libel claims was unlawful. Most strikingly, however, it appears as though Mr James is himself completely oblivious to the content of the 1996 report, as he goes on to claim that the dispute is one into which the council should never have been ‘dragged in’. Mr Edwards, who is terminally ill, told us: “All I want from anyone is for this mess to be sorted out once and for all so I can rest in peace and know that my family will not suffer anymore.”

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Health

Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June

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ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.

A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.

An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.

The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.

Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”

If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.

All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.

It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.

Please check for local arrangements.

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Health

Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services

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MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.

Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.

Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.

“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”

Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.

They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS

Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”

“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”

Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.

The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.

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Business

Average UK price of diesel hits record of more than £1.80 a litre

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LESS than two months after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p a litre cut on the average price of fuel – diesel prices have reached a record high price of 180.29p a litre.
The previous high of 179.90p was recorded on March 23rd 2022 – the day of the Spring Statement from Sunak.

In recent weeks, the UK government has tried to move away from its reliance on importing Russian oil, following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Worryingly for drivers of petrol cars, the price per litre is fast approaching the record levels of 167.3p per litre set on March 22nd.

This latest price rise adds another challenge to UK households, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country.

RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Sadly, despite the Chancellor’s 5p a litre duty cut the average price of a litre of diesel has hit a new record high at 180.29p.”

“Efforts to move away from importing Russian diesel have led to a tightening of supply and pushed up the price retailers pay for diesel.”

“While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.”

“Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.”

“As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the Spring Statement.”

“The average price of petrol is also on the rise having gone up nearly 3p a litre since the start of the month to 166.65p which means it’s less than a penny away from the all-time high of 167.30p set on 22 March.”

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