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Plaid accommodates Labour on council changes

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‘We have stopped Labour’s backdoor plans’: Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid justifies Plaid’s shock move

‘We have stopped Labour’s
backdoor plans’: Leanne Wood,
leader of Plaid justifies Plaid’s
shock move

THE WELSH GOVERNMENT is to press ahead with its controversial proposals to merge Welsh councils, after it struck a deal with Plaid Cymru to allow the deadlocked bill to proceed.

The same bill had been pulled by the Labour government a fortnight ago, due to lack of support. It had been suggested that the Government required opposition support as it had failed to convince even its own AM’s of the case to advance the unpopular measure.

Plaid Cymru’s decision not to oppose the bill has been criticised by other opposition parties in the Assembly, but stoutly defended by the party itself.

Welsh Conservatives were first out of the traps, with an excoriating statement that castigated Plaid Cymru for its reversal of policy.

Welsh Conservatives oppose the Bill. The party tabled an amendment calling for referenda to decide on mergers – giving local people the final say.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Local Government, Janet Finch-Saunders AM, said: “Barely 72 hours after criticising Labour, Plaid’s leader has happily cosied up and done a deal with them.

“We should’ve expected nothing less than this astonishing hypocrisy. You’d be hard pushed to make it up.

“Thanks to Plaid and Labour, local people won’t get a say on the future of our councils.

“Thanks to them, councils could now be forced to merge. Vote Plaid – Get Labour. It’s that simple – and this disregard for Welsh communities is concrete evidence.

“We believe local people should have a say and local authorities should be able to demonstrate how a merger will benefit communities.”

While the Welsh Conservatives’ position – particularly their repetition of the ‘vote Plaid – get Labour’ is scarcely surprising, an altogether more personal note was struck by Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats pointed out that, only a couple of weeks ago, Simon Thomas stated that he believed the Welsh Government’s Local Government bill was “taking the p*ss”, while their spokesperson, Peter Black, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Local Government Minister, said: “This is humiliating stuff. Only weeks after one of Plaid’s Assembly Members made clear he would be voting against the bill, his party is now stating that they will support it. They are in an absolute mess.

“Plaid have sold out, but received absolutely nothing in return. It’s bizarre.

“Their embarrassing u-turn is based on smoke and mirrors. They have achieved literally nothing. There is no commitment for a fair voting system and it was always the case that mergers were not going to happen before the Assembly election.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats will not support any local government reform that doesn’t bring power closer to people by devolving powers and introducing a fairer voting system. If councils are going to be larger, then it is essential that they reflect the people that voted for them.”

Plaid Cymru offered a stout defence of their change of tack, claiming that it had stopped Labour from forcing through its centralisation agenda for Welsh local government without a mandate.

Plaid stated that concessions it had secured ‘mean no work will be able to start on implementing reforms until after the next Welsh election – allowing people to choose which party’s vision they wish to see delivered after May.’

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: “Plaid Cymru has stopped Labour from enforcing their map for local government reorganisation through the back door before plans are put to people. Large scale changes to Local Government structures should not be decided by politicians with no mandate but should be decided by people in an election.”

However, given the continuing deadlock in the Assembly, it is difficult to see what, if anything Plaid has achieved, other than hand over a significant hostage to fortune sure to be exploited by its political opponents.

Ms Wood continued: “The demands made by Plaid Cymru will mean that all parties can present their individual proposals in their manifestos and seek a mandate to implement them, without being bound by the current government’s preferences.

“It will allow a Plaid Cymru government to implement the changes that we want to see to the structure of Local Government, by retaining the existing 22 Local Authorities making them work together as combined regional authorities.

“Plaid Cymru has also ensured that we will have the ability to introduce proportional representation for local councils to allow for fairer voting systems like STV.

“The Party of Wales has acted in the best interests of the people of Wales, giving them the say on how they want their local councils to be elected and structured in future and halting the centralisation plans of Labour. We now seek a mandate for our proposals for localism and empowering Wales’ communities in the election to the National Assembly next May.”

Simon Thomas AM, who featured prominently in the Liberal Democrat response to Plaid’s decision, said: “The Party of Wales have secured the future of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire for the time being by this agreement with the Welsh Government.”

Mr Thomas continued: “Plaid Cymru has stopped Labour from enforcing their map for local government reorganisation through the back door. It is now up to the people of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire to decide on the various visions of different political parties. Plaid Cymru has its own policy on creating regional combined authorities. The extent to which we will be able to implement this vision, or to which we will have to co-operate with other parties, will be decided by the people of Wales in next year’s elections.”

Following the passage of Stage 4 of the Local Government (Wales) Bill the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has recognised that no further progress can be made on local government reorganisation until after May 2016. It has restated its previous call for all parties and local government leaders to be involved in important national talks following the May 2016 National Assembly for Wales elections to determine the future shape of public services in Wales.

The call came after the agreement was struck between Labour and Plaid Cymru to pass the Local Government (Wales) Bill.

A WLGA spokesperson said: “Continued speculation around local government reorganisation is making life intensely difficult for local councils who are trying to plan and reform local services in the face of major financial pressures. It also impacts on the morale of hundreds of thousands of local government workers who are being adversely affected by the insecurity such ongoing speculation causes. This is taking place in a wider context within which the key issue facing local councils is not a distant restructuring in 2020, but the impact of the UK Spending Review where cuts to local services ranging from between 25-40% are being explored at Westminster.

“With the Labour-Plaid agreement, it is essential that the Welsh public is fully involved in any plans to reorganise and reform local councils. As such it is vital that these should be fully explained in party manifestos which can be scrutinised and judged by the electorate as part of next year’s Welsh elections.

“Local council leaders will seek to work with the next Welsh Government to make sure we get this right by creating a system of local government that is effective and sustainable well into the future, and one that stresses the importance of local democracy and ensures that localism is at the heart of Welsh public policy.”

Local Government leaders in West Wales have repeatedly made it clear that they want no truck with the proposals coming from Cardiff Bay. Former Carmarthenshire Leader Kevin Madge made his opposition to reorganisation clear and the Council under his leadership was all but unanimous in expressing its opposition to any proposed merger or dismemberment of the authority.

It appears that his successor, Plaid’s Emlyn Dole, who waxed lyrical about the importance of retaining Carmarthenshire in its current form as a unitary authority, has recently changed his tune. When the Welsh Government was forced to withdraw its proposals a fortnight ago he told The Herald: “I am in favour of local government reorganisation. I am happy with the decision taken to postpone the debate because it will give time for people to give due consideration and have meaningful discussions on this issue. It has to be done on a consensual basis where form follows functions.”

Pembrokeshire Council Leader, Jamie Adams, has been consistent and critical in his response to the proposals for reorganisation, stating repeatedly that the Welsh Government has shown no value to the change, no service improvements attributable to it, and no sign of how mergers and reorganisation will be funded. He has also warned of inevitable job losses at the sharp end of service delivery.

With some within Plaid still quietly critical of their party’s tactics towards Labour in last May’s Westminster elections, there is concern that the Conservatives – in particular – and potentially UKIP could exploit Plaid’s decision not to oppose the Bill at next May’s elections.

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader, Jamie Adams, said: “This news will obviously will please County Councillor Michael Williams from Tenby North who is Leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Pembrokeshire County Council.

“However it appears at odds with the views of the Council leaders of Carmarthen and Ceredigion, both of whom have stated clearly that they are against any proposals for council mergers.

“For me, it’s a further demonstration of political parties at Cardiff Bay being out of touch with communities.

“They are creating a map without any understanding of how services operate. Neither are they demonstrating to the public how they expect services to be improved or money saved just because councils become bigger.

Cllr Adams added: “The evidence is that larger authorities do not perform as well.”

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M4 closed westbound following lorry fire near Swansea

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A SECTION of the M4 near Swansea was shut on Monday (Aug 8) due to a vehicle fire.

The westbound section of the motorway, between junction 47 at Penllergaer and junction 48 at Hendy closed.

Emergency services were called to the scene, and there was queuing traffic in the area.

Traffic monitoring service Inrix reported: “M4 Westbound closed, queueing traffic due to vehicle fire between J47 A48 (Penllergaer / Swansea West Services) and J48 A4138 Pontardulais Road”

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News

Police appeal after Llanelli assault: victim required hospital treatment

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DYFED POWYS POLICE is investigating an assault which occurred on Regalia Terrace, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire at about 12.05am, Sunday 3rd July.

The victim required hospital treatment.

Officers have carried out all possible lines of enquiry, and are now appealing for help from the public.

They would like to identify the person in the CCTV image, who may have information that could help the investigation.

Anyone who knows who the person is, or if you believe you are pictured, contact Dyfed-Powys Police.

This can also be done either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk or phoning 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Please quote reference DP-20220703-011

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

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Charity

Successful camping and riding weekends raise £1,400 for lifesaving charity

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MEMBERS from the North Wales branch Trail Riders Fellowship have presented the Wales Air Ambulance with a £1,400 donation following its successful camping and trail riding charity weekends.

The successful fundraiser, which was held for its members near Dolgellau, attracted around 60 members who took part over two weekends.

During both weekends donations were collected from each rider taking part. The riders took to the lanes both north and south of River Mawddach, where they were blessed with lovely weather.

This is not the first time they’ve supported the Wales Air Ambulance. They’ve raised around £3,000 during two previous events.

Reflecting on why the Wales Air Ambulance helicopter charity was chosen to benefit from the event, treasurer for North Wales TRF group, Mike Rowlands said: “We chose the Wales Air Ambulance knowing what a difference it can make when called upon to attend emergencies to all members of the public. It can’t be overstated how important our members see the value of this wonderful charity to the people of Wales.

“The club members are proud to contribute towards keeping the Wales Air Ambulance flying.”

The North Wales branch of the Trail Riders Fellowship promotes responsible trail riding on legal routes around North Wales.

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity emergency service offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia, and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care. 

Wales Air Ambulance’s Community Fundraiser Debra Sima was recently presented with the cheque of £1,400 by the North Wales Trail Riders Fellowship members at The Parrot, Drury.

A delighted Debra said: “A huge thank you to all the organisers and riders who took part in the two weekend events. We’re delighted that the North Wales branch of Trail Riders Fellowship has once again decided to support our lifesaving 24/7 charity. In total they’ve raised £4,400 for our Charity during three separate fundraisers, which is amazing. Their continued support will enable us to keep our helicopters in the air and our rapid response vehicles on the road. Thank you so much.”

There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance. These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via www.walesairambulance.com.

Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711.

For more information on Trail Riders Fellowship visit http://trf.org.uk/

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