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Trimsaran: Asset transfers in the spotlight

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Nia Griffith MP: Assets must be brought up to scratch before transfers

SHADOW SECRETARY of State for Wales, Nia Griffith MP chaired a public meeting at Trimsaran Rugby Club on Thursday (Jan 28) to discuss the future of the Miner’s Welfare Hall and the Trimsaran RFC changing rooms.

Both are threatened with closure if the local council and the community cannot find a solution to take over the assets and potentially fund their future.

Around 30 people attended the meeting and heard from representations including Nia Griffith MP, Sian Caiach (People First), Huw Woodford-Rock and Colin Davies of Kidwelly RFC.

Kicking off the meeting, Trimsaran RFC representative Huw Woodford- Rock said he thought that part of the Miner’s Welfare Hall should be demolished but that the main building was solid and should stay.

Huw told the meeting: “Trimsaran is now a designated primary rest and care centre in the event of floods.” Talking about the damage to the rugby club’s changing rooms, he said: “The council say they can’t do the repairs until the insurance people have been in. You have seen the recent floods and the insurance people are there the next day.

If the Club was looking to take over the facilities, Huw said: “The WRU in joint venture with Natwest will supply the club with banking staff to help with a business plan.”

Nia Griffith MP said: “I am sure most people are aware that the County Council is trying to get rid of their assets.” She asked if the community wanted to take on the responsibility of the assets. She continued: “Any of you who have been involved know how much hard work is involved. They key issue is to think of the uses you want it for when you look at a feasibility study. You have to think about whether it will be leased from the County or if the community council takes over the lease. If an independent body takes over, they may just disappear. The guidelines are that it has to remain where there is a clear ownership by County or Community Council.”

The representative of Kidwelly Park Association Colin Davies said that he had to lease their asset from the County Council: “Residents formed a Parks Association and all organisations were now responsible for the park.”

He continued: “We were the first to do this. We managed up to now through the generosity of local businesses, but we are struggling. If everyone does not pull together or you are wasting your time.

“We had to do it because the Town Council didn’t want anything to do with it. We were promised grants but we have not seen a penny of it yet. The County Council have said they will be giving us money in part payments.” Colin Davies concluded: “It has been a big saving for the County. They don’t have to employ anyone now. We were not being paid and we didn’t even have any machinery. We were fortunate that a businessman put some money forward. Pontarddulais RFC have gone through an Asset Transfer. The council paid them up front. It cost us £15,000 and we did the work ourselves. We had nothing from the County or the Town Council.” One member of the rugby club committee said that the club had been in communication with the County Council since January 2015: “We went to the Welsh Rugby Union and had to see a man called Geoff Roach who was sitting on the Asset Transfer Committee of Carmarthenshire County Council. “We had to go and see him to arrange a meeting with the County Council Asset Transfer Team. We met them on April 2, 2015. Don’t think for a minute they are trying to help you. If they had got away with it you would still be using the leisure centre to get the money to maintain the changing rooms. We have been active for the last 12 months in trying to get something done.”

Sian Caiach of People First said that she had a number of projects on the asset transfer list.

Addressing the meeting, she told the audience: “The county thought it would be a good idea to get rid of these assets. They offered £10,000 per project. We had 13 and had to drop a lot of them.”

She advised that Trimsaran RFC should negotiate as hard as they could and that they needed to get Meryl Gravel on their side as she had an enormous amount of influence.

Cllr Caiach continued: “A lot of assets are being neglected. We need to make sure the assets are looked after and handed over in A1 condition. We cannot be responsible for those costs right at the start. The council still own these assets and it is their responsibility. The whole idea is to make people take over the assets we already own and have paid for from our own council tax. That money will be diverted somewhere else and called a saving. There are councils and clubs who just can’t afford to do anything.

“Nobody knew that the policy of the County Council would be to get rid of everything. The County Council have not thought this through.”

Speaking after the meeting about the future for Trimsaran RFC and the county’s assets Nia Griffith told The Herald: “Trimsaran has a fantastic reputation for sport. The changing rooms are integral in being able to offer sport to all sorts of age groups. They do have the will and enthusiasm to take over those changing rooms. They are willing to sign a lease with the council but they want the facilities handed over in A1 condition. They need to be ready to be used by next winter.

“We understand there have been problems with asset transfer but you would think by now that they would have learned and the process should become straightforward. It needs to be efficient and the facilities need to be handed over in a way where they can be used with a proper lease agreement.”

Expressing reservations about the way asset transfers are being handled, the Llanelli MP continued: “The other issue is the concern about the asset transfer programme where the county is taking money from the reserves for vanity projects, things we don’t really need yet rather than making sure the assets they do have are up to standard. We want the repairs done and either kept on by the council or handed over fairly. What we don’t want is the neglect of these assets and deliberately letting them get run down whereby nobody can afford to get them done up. We have all paid for these assets. We need them repaired and the discussions to take place between all concerned to make sure the hand over can be cost effective and sustainable. The example of Kidwelly where they have worked so hard and have not had any financial help is awful. I will be pushing for that money to be released.”

Nia Griffith concluded: “Carmarthenshire is a land rich county. It is totally inexcusable to be using the green spaces in our communities for more housing. They provide opportunity for local people of all ages to get out get some fresh air and take part in exercise and enjoy the spaces. This is not a city where where it is difficult to find a space. We are blessed with a beautiful county. It is a worry and people are concerned.”

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Town centre triumph as food festival returns

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THE people of Llanelli treated themselves on Saturday, October 16 as Llanelli Food and Drink Festival returned for its third stint in the town centre. 

Crowds turned out in droves as hot street food vendors and artisan producers lined the streets in the event organised by Ymlaen Llanelli, the town centre’s Business Improvement District (BID).

Chair of Ymlaen Llanelli, Lesley Richards, was thrilled with the event’s success: “The annual food festival is our biggest event, and it was great to see people excited for it to return after a year away. Our work at Ymlaen Llanelli is all about bringing people together in Llanelli town centre, so we’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone that came along and made the day what it was. We can always rely on the people of Llanelli to bring the party!”

The sun was shining as festival-goers as they tucked into their treats and were entertained as a lineup of acoustic acts took to the stage in Stepney Square. 

Children and adults alike got stuck into the food-themed crafty fun as the vintage pottery bus Annibendod offered Mad Hatter’s Tea Party pottery, while A Taste of Times Past hosted pickling and pasta-making workshops in St Elli Shopping Centre.

BID Manager, Mandy Jenkins, was pleased with the day: “It was brilliant to see town so busy, and we’ve had incredible feedback from our businesses who were choc-a-block on the day. On top of that, the public response has been phenomenal, so we really couldn’t be happier. Thank you Llanelli!”

Ymlaen Llanelli returns for some festive fun with Llanelli Reindeer Parade on Saturday, December 4.

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Police: New scientific evidence shows that David Morris was correctly convicted

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SOUTH WALES POLICE say that an independent investigative assessment into the Clydach murders in 1999 have shown that there is a scientific link between David Morris and a sock, widely accepted as being used by the offender during the killings.

David Morris was found guilty of murdering an entire family of four including two young girls.

But potential new witnesses, along with the views of experts, had given campaigners calling for his release fresh hope.

However Morris, 59, died in prison in August.

He spent 22 years in jail for killing Mandy Power, 34, her daughters Katie, 10, and Emily, aged eight, and her 80-year-old mother Doris Dawson.

A bid to again take his case to the Court of Appeal was rejected in 2018 by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In July the Crown Prosecution Service said no information had been provided by the potential new witnesses to undermine the conviction.

The review, which was being overseen by Devon and Cornwall Police, was then expected to move on to look at forensic issues also challenged in a recent BBC television documentary about the killings.

Police say that the scientific examination of the sock has identified the presence of a mixed *Y-STR profile using technology which would not have been available to the original investigation team over 20 years ago.

While the presence of a link to Morris (or a male relative of his paternal lineage) and the mixed Y-STR profile has been identified, the science cannot determine how or when this profile was transferred onto the exhibit, but the conclusion of scientists is that it is “more likely” that Morris contributed to the DNA profile found on two different areas of the blood-stained sock than if he did not contribute DNA to them.

Following the tragic events in Kelvin Road, Clydach in June 1999, South Wales Police carried out an extensive investigation into the murders and the scale of the investigation was the largest and most complex ever undertaken by a Welsh police force.

In 2002, David Morris was convicted of the murders by a unanimous verdict at Swansea Crown Court. His conviction was overturned on appeal due to a conflict of interest by a defence solicitor. A retrial was held at Newport Crown Court in 2006 and Morris was convicted again. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The matter has been considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission as recently as 2018. Following a thorough review of the case material they decided not to refer it to the Court of Appeal as no new evidence had been identified.

In November 2020, legal representatives of Morris contacted South Wales Police requesting the release of various exhibits from the investigation.

This request was the subject of careful consideration and the force decided on a course of action which involved the appointment of an independent senior investigating officer and an independent forensic laboratory to oversee a forensic review of the case material.

This work – carried out under the banner of Operation Dolomite – has been led by experienced detectives Steve Carey and Ian Ringrose, supported by police forensic expert David Lloyd, all of whom are from Devon & Cornwall Police. An independent forensic science laboratory, Cellmark Forensic Services, was commissioned to carry out forensic work.

Following the death of David Morris on 20th August 2021, permission was given by his family to obtain a blood sample to allow forensic examinations to take place.

Assistant Chief Constable David Thorne, of South Wales Police, said: “The decision to carry out an investigative assessment did not constitute a reopening or reinvestigation of the murders, nor did it demonstrate any lack of confidence in the conviction of Morris and the subsequent case reviews. Morris was convicted unanimously by a jury on the strength of the prosecution case and independent reviews by the Criminal Cases Review Commission have never identified any evidence which would determine the conviction to be unsafe.

“However, the advancement of forensic technology has provided the opportunity for evidence-based answers to some of the questions which have been raised about forensic issues in this case, along with other matters raised by the BBC Wales documentary ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’. The appointment of Steve Carey and his team has ensured the review has been conducted with a layer of independence.”

The outcome of the investigative assessment has been communicated to the victims’ families, the family and legal representatives of Morris and others affected by this case.

Mr Carey said: “My team has carefully examined the issues raised and subject to the terms of reference for Operation Dolomite.

“In the opinion of the forensic scientist regarding these results – which were obtained from samples extracted from two separate areas of the sock at the time of the original forensic examination – it is more likely that David Morris (or a close paternal-line male relative of his) contributed DNA to them than if he did not.

“In relation to one sample, the lead forensic scientist has stated to me that in his opinion the low-level and incomplete mixed Y-STR result is as would be expected if Morris had contributed DNA to it. For another person to have contributed to it, the components must match by chance.

“The scientist would have a very low expectation of selecting a male individual at random from the Western European population having components in their Y-STR profile being represented to the same extent as those in the Y-STR profile of Morris.

“To test this, an evaluative tool developed by Cellmark Forensic Services showed that from a dataset of 9,357 Western European males, no-one is represented to the same extent as the component in the Y-STR profile of Morris.

“It should be noted that the results do not allow the scientist to interpret how the DNA got onto the sock and therefore whether this was through directly touching the item or indirect transfer but the identification of this link has been possible due to the development of technology which would not have been available to the original investigation team.

“This is significant as the sock was recovered from the murder scene and it was widely accepted that it was used by the killer.

“The outcome of the forensic assessment and completion of further actions have not established any information that undermines the conviction of Morris. In my view, as the independent senior investigating officer, the new findings from the samples taken from the sock support the existing evidence that originally convicted him.”

Operation Dolomite also investigated accounts provided by two witnesses who featured in the BBC documentary. They were interviewed by officers and several enquiries were conducted to try and corroborate and support their accounts.  All this evidence was shared with the Crown Prosecution Service. None of the information provided by the witnesses undermines the conviction of Morris.

ACC Thorne added: “Notwithstanding the fact that Morris has been convicted based on overwhelming evidence against him, South Wales Police has shown a commitment to providing evidence-based answers to the issues which have been raised about this case over many years.

“This commitment has now resulted in a forensic link between the convicted killer David Morris and an item of great significance which was recovered from the murder scene. South Wales Police commissioned the review in the hope that we could in some way provide closure for those most affected by the murders. In particular, those who lost three generations of the same family and have had to revisit those painful memories time and time again over the last two decades.

“The findings from Operation Dolomite will be shared with the Criminal Cases Review Commission to complete the due process and demonstrate transparency.  However, in the knowledge of the conclusions drawn from this review, South Wales Police would like to show respect to the family and those affected by these terrible crimes by finalising this case.

“Our thoughts as ever remain with the family of Mandy Power, her children Katie, aged 10, and Emily, eight, and her 80-year-old mother Doris, who still experience such painful memories even to this day.”

Following the refusal by the CPS to look at new evidence before David Morris died, Janiene Morris, one of David Morris’s two daughters, said: “This is another massive blow to dad’s case and as a family we just don’t understand it.”

She said at the time that the evidence of a taxi driver who had sighted unidentified people near the murder scene had been discounted. In all, she said there were three witnesses that had placed others near the murder scene on the night of the killings.

“We’ve never met them and don’t want to because we want to do things properly. These witnesses have was not involved with anyone in the case and have absolutely no reason to lie. I cannot express how angry and frustrated we are right now. It is so frustrating, but we’re not going to take it lying down”.

Speaking in July, Janiene said: “He is up and down. He has good days and and bad days. Sometimes he is just exhausted with everything that is going on. We are looking forward to seeing him.”

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Moving the Welsh Economy Forward: “A Team Wales recovery, built by all of us” – Economy Minister

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT will pursue a progressive economic policy that focuses on better jobs, narrowing the skills divide and tackling poverty, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, will say today.

At a hybrid Economic Summit, the Minister has invited businesses, trades unions and local government leaders to discuss how Wales can create a stronger, fairer, greener economic future.

In setting out his vision to move the Welsh economy forward, the Minister will commit to extending a Team Wales model to offer ‘as much certainty as possible’ for businesses facing a volatile recovery.  

He will promise a new era of partnership to strengthen regional economic development, a delivery plan to back the everyday economy and wide ranging support for workers in a fast changing economy.

The Welsh Government will work with unions and business to develop it’s ‘something for something’ approach so that Welsh public money is wedded to action on fair work, decarbonisation and skills.

The Minister will also start a conversation about the long term demographic challenge facing the Welsh economy. The proportion of the population aged 16 to 64 years old in Wales has been decreasing year-on-year since mid-2008 – and could be just 58% of the population by 2043.

In response, Welsh Ministers’ approach will be geared towards creating an economy where more young people feel confident about planning their future in Wales thus supporting job creation and more dynamic local economies.

The Welsh Government will set out a vision of what makes Wales an attractive place to live, study, work and invest – including the quality of life in an inclusive, open and green nation.

The Welsh Government will also call on the Chancellor to demonstrate the UK Government’s ambition for Wales by honouring promises made on EU successor funds, backing major renewables such as tidal energy and investing in Welsh research and development.

Later, the Minister will visit a family-run business that’s received Welsh Government support to grow, before delivering a speech to a predominantly virtual audience of business, trades unions and local government leaders and other partners at Transport for Wales’ new HQ in Pontypridd.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “The Welsh Government is taking bold action to build a stronger, fairer, greener Welsh economy. It has taken a Team Wales effort to keep Wales safe and we will deliver a Team Wales Recovery, built by all of us. 

“A strong Welsh recovery will be based on the principles of fair work and sustainability as we invest in the industries and services of the future.

“As we face the headwinds of Brexit, I am determined that our credible plans will offer as much certainty as possible to help businesses plan ahead. 

“A new era of partnership for stronger regions, a young person’s guarantee, a plan to back our everyday economy and collaboration with world leading, advanced manufacturing. This is the cause for optimism for the future we are building in Wales.

“My ambition is to make Wales a place where more young people feel confident in planning their future here. You don’t have to get out to get on, make your future here in Wales.”

The Welsh Government’s approach includes:

  • Investing in our people – through the Young Person’s Guarantee and a strong employability and skills offer, including Apprenticeships;
  • Supporting those furthest away from the Labour market to find work. The upcoming Employability Strategy will highlight the support available for individuals, particularly those most impacted by the pandemic and furthest away from the labour market;
  • Accelerating the adaptation to new skills which are required for skilled, secure jobs, not least in the area of low carbon. The current recruitment challenge has also shown there is a need for some quick action on skills in certain sectors;
  • Exploring how we retain our graduates and talent in Wales by building strong linkages with universities, and between universities and businesses;
  • Support start-ups, including graduate start-ups, with possible incentives in some areas;
  • Ensure we have firms grounded in Wales who can provide future opportunities;
  • Wales can also benefit from the opportunities for far greater remote working and flexible commuting options.
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