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Truthfulness versus accuracy in minutes row

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A little less certain of her words: Cllr Meryl Gravell

A little less certain of her words: Cllr Meryl Gravell

A CLAIM made by a member of the Executive Board was the subject of significant backtracking at Wednesday’s (Feb 10) Full Council meeting.

The routine approval of the minutes of an Executive Board Meeting that took place on January 4 took a controversial turn when comments made by Cllr Meryl Gravell and recorded in the meeting’s minutes were challenged by three councillors, including opposition leader Jeff Edmunds.

Cllr Gravell had claimed at the Executive Board that a Lottery bid in relation to funding for Parc Howard had been derailed because of the opposition from local residents.

Cllr Bill Thomas challenged the minutes and claimed that Cllr Gravell’s remarks were untrue and unsupported by evidence. Cllr Thomas claimed that the claim was being examined by the Lottery Commission, who had uncovered no evidence to support Cllr Gravell’s slur on Llanelli residents.

Chair Peter Hughes Griffiths interrupted to establish whether or Cllr Thomas was challenging the minutes’ accuracy, or making a point about their content.

Councillor Thomas pressed on: “If the member for regeneration has either emails or letters that implicate people as having meetings with the Lottery Commission that scuppered this bid then I think we in the council should have sight of those letters.”

Peter Hughes Griffiths asked Cllr Thomas to identify the offending section of the minutes.

Councillor Thomas did so and continued: “As I say, it was investigated and we had a letter of unreserved apology. If the member has documented evidence either email or letters saying that people from Llanelli were implicated in meetings with the Lottery Commission and scuppered the bid, I think this chamber should have sight of those or it should be withdrawn from the minutes.”

Cllr Jan Williams joined in the challenge: “I would just like to ask if there is documented evidence that we could see that shows that it was completely the opposition of local residents that scuppered the bid. My understanding, having read why the bid was unsuccessful is not as claimed. I’d like that clarified because some of us have had spurious accusations made against us.”

Bill Thomas got up again and pressed on: “I would like the member for Trimsaran to give us an answer as to whether she has letters or emails implicating anybody as having meetings with the Lottery Commission. If not I would like that removed from the minutes and from the previous minutes and from the next set of minutes that are coming out.”

Cllr Gravell rose and responded, “That was the information I was given at the time.”

Bill Thomas responded: “That is not the question, Chair. I am asking for evidence.”

Peter Hughes Griffiths said that he would not permit an argument: “It’s going to be a debate and I only ask for questions and answers. I have been accused so many times of not being democratic and so on but you are pushing me too hard from time to time and I must say those are the rules and if you’re pushing me all the time I will stick harder to the rules won’t I? That’s my response all the time as Chair: to be fair with everybody.”

County Councillor Jeff Edmunds asked for clarification from the Chair.

Peter Hughes Griffiths responded: “Clarification about what now again?” He went on to suggest that a rationing quota applied to matters of business as they arose: “It’s a question and you’ve already had three questions today.”

Cllr Edmunds directed a query to the Monitoring Officer, who replied: “I hear what is being said from the floor and a few members challenging the basis of part of the discussion at executive board but the accuracy of the minutes of the executive board meeting are matters for the executive board to confirm.”

Following the Monitoring Officer’s intervention, Peter Hughes Griffiths drew the matter to a conclusion with the words: “In other words, end of story.”

The issue of the minutes’ truthfulness, as opposed to their strict accuracy recording what was said, is an argument that councillors are unable to resolve.

CLLR GRAVELL’S CLAIM

We examined precisely what Cllr Gravell had said which had caused such ill-feeling.

At the Board Meeting on January 4, she referred to a £5m plan to revitalise Parc Howard being presented with a business plan to ‘the Lottery’. She then continued to claim:

“The local people went behind our backs to the Lottery to say they didn’t want it to go ahead. That is just to clarify that is the case.”

As statements of certainty go, that certainly takes some beating. Cllr Gravell not only made a claim local people sabotaged the plans for Parc Howard, but did so by stealth. In addition she clarifies the position to underline her point.

But at the meeting of Full Council, when that version of events was challenged and she was confronted by the results of a Lottery Commission investigation into the claim, she was rather less certain and claimed that her assertion came from ‘information given to me, at the time’.

The issues that arise from Cllr Gravell’s retreat from certainty to something considerably less than certain is the identity of the person or persons who gave her what was manifestly incorrect information and why she continued to repeat the lie when it had been nailed by the Lottery Commission.

It is certain that Cllr Gravell’s words have exacerbated suspicions in Llanelli that the Council is not playing straight with the town.

Perhaps Cllr Emlyn Dole, who is attempting to relieve the miasma of rumour and suspicion surrounding past dealings with Llanelli, could make sure that when members of the Executive Board make assertions such as those made by Cllr Gravell, they are backed by something akin to evidence – i.e. that which can be examined. Or at least challenged to produce it.

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£121k watersports funding announced for Llanelli beauty spot

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• Welsh Water, Natural Resources Wales, Llanelli Rural Council & Canoe Wales has secured ‘Access to Water’ funding.

• Visitors will be able to enjoy paddlesports (canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding), windsurfing and angling.

• Site expected to attract 90k+ visitors a year.

The recent announcement of the development of the Swiss Valley reservoirs in Carmarthenshire has been given a boost with the confirmation of an ‘Access to Water’ grant from Welsh Government, worth £121k, that will enable visitor access to the Lower Lleidi reservoir for paddle sports and angling.

The funding will realise plans to bring back a range of paddlesports to the reservoir, including stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking.  It will also enable bank angling through the creation of recreational zones.  A range of improvements to the surrounding infrastructure are also planned to include a boat wash for biosecurity and the creation of paths and a pontoon that allows easy access to water for people of all abilities, and the refurbishment of toilet facilities.

Developing the Swiss Valley Reservoirs is expected to attract 90k+ visitors a year to the site, in line with Covid19 regulations. The ‘Access to Water’ funding is an important milestone in achieving shared ambitions for the site, and to support the funding application, a survey of local canoe clubs, outdoor activity providers and anglers was conducted which found a strong demand for access to the water for their activities. The feedback was that this is likely to generate a huge amount of interest from clubs and providers given it’s ideal geographical location. The community adoption scheme means that local people are offering to invest their own time to help look after this jewel of a community asset, and care for it into the future.

The project is well placed to support the delivery of The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015, which requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. Whilst Welsh Water is not a public body, it is committed to working in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, Natural Resources Wales and Canoe Wales in the spirit of the legislation.

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “This is an excellent example of a scheme which increases opportunities for outdoor recreation and provides safe access to water for people of all abilities.  The development of these reservoirs will enable local people and visitors to gain more enjoyment from this beauty spot in line with covid19 guidelines and help to support a green recovery in Wales.  I hope the success of this project will encourage development of many more similar opportunities over the coming years.”

Welsh Water Chief Executive Peter Perry said, “Access to blue space is proven to be positively associated with health and wellbeing. Swiss Valley is an important asset for the local community and visitors alike. This funding is a major milestone in our efforts to bring this cherished community asset back to its former glory and make it more accessible, for the health and wellbeing of everyone.”

Jen Browning, Chief Executive of Canoe Wales, the national governing body for paddlesport in Wales, added, “Over the past eight months, we have seen an unprecedented amount of demand for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, but the limited number of venues in Wales suitable for new paddlers has always been a major obstacle. This funding will ensure that Swiss Valley can play an enormously important role in making it possible for people of all abilities to enjoy the water, and for many to discover a passion for paddlesport and develop a deep connection with the outdoors.”

Dave MacCallum, Specialist Advisor for Water Access & Recreation at Natural Resources Wales and Chairman of NAFW Access to Water Sub-Group said: “We are delighted to have been a part of this important collaboration which will open up these new waters for responsible, inclusive recreation in South West Wales. NRW is committed to doing all we can to enable more people to enjoy Wales’ countryside more easily and responsibly – to take advantage of the many health and wellbeing benefits that getting outside can bring. Benefitting from bespoke disabled paddle-sport access facilities and a Biosecurity station promoting and enabling the Check Clean Dry initiative, the Swiss Valley reservoir project paves the way for future access to Welsh still waters so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy their visits to some of Wales’ most spectacular landscapes”

Llanelli Rural Council Leader, Cllr Tegwen Devichand said “the funding is marvellous news for the community and will enable the council to develop its plans for the reservoir in earnest. Much of the preliminary work associated with the first phase of infrastructure improvements can now get underway, in fact some work has commenced already. The physical adaptations to refurbish the toilet block, visitor car park and access to the water to facilitate paddle sports and the angling fraternity is scheduled to be completed by March 2021, but work won’t stop there. Moreover, the community response to our plans for the reservoir has been overwhelming; the council has received a great deal of local and regional support and a number of interest groups and individuals have come forward to help us deliver our plans as well as to offer their services. This is greatly appreciated and bodes well for the future.”

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Llanelli Yodel colleague celebrates 30-year anniversary

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Beverley Smith, a valued member of the Llanelli depot’s team, is celebrating her 30-year anniversary with UK independent parcel carrier, Yodel.

Beverley joined Yodel in 1990, when it was originally known as Home Shopping Network, as an Inbound Sorter and then moved onto a Customer Service Support role over 28 years ago. Beverly supports the Llanelli Management Team, provides customer service to clients and customers alike and is always on hand to answer any driver queries.

To celebrate her anniversary, Kay Dodd, Service Centre Manager, presented Beverley with £750 of Very vouchers and ordered in a cooked breakfast to celebrate.

Customer Service Support Advisor, Beverley Smith commented: “My time with Yodel has been very fulfilling – constantly challenging – keeping me on my toes. I’ve been with the company so long that I remember having to write with a pen and paper and have to fax documents to the head office daily – I can’t say I miss those days!

“I have made many close friends during the 30 years at the business and I truly have enjoyed the hard working and happy atmosphere at Llanelli every day.”

Kay Dodd, Depot Manager, added: “Bev is a valued member of my team here at Llanelli, she provides excellent customer service to customers, clients and colleagues. She has a courteous and caring attitude and goes beyond her duties to ensure everyone has a positive experience at Yodel Llanelli. Thank you for everything Bev!”

To join Beverley and the team at Yodel’s Llanelli depot, or to find out more about working for Yodel, and the roles and training available, visit www.yodelopportunities.co.uk or text ‘Deliver’ to 84433. 

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Preparatory works to start at key Stepney Street Building

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Preparatory works are due to start on a key building in Llanelli Town Centre ahead of formal planning approval.

Number 49 Stepney Street is being redeveloped as part of a significant investment in the town centre to transform, regenerate and connect its key retails and leisure areas.

Carmarthenshire County Council has submitted plans which could see the former YMCA building retain much of its character whilst providing high quality living space and commercial units

The works would include the restoration of the front façade of the building, along with the retention of the perimeter wall, main internal structural walls and bringing back many original features such as the ornate staircase.

Subject to planning approval the rest of the building would be redeveloped to include two floors of commercial space on the ground and first floors, with eight two-bedroomed living spaces on the upper floors.

There will also be residents parking spaces on the ground floor.

The works currently underway will prepare the building for redevelopment and include stripping and clearance of old materials.

Carmarthenshire County Council leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “Many generations of people from Llanelli will have special memories of using this fantastic building over the years and it is such a shame to see it lay empty and falling into disrepair – we’re proud to be leading on this scheme to breathe new life into it once again.”

The council has already spent £4.5million buying empty shop units from private ownership, renovating and bringing them back in to use at affordable rental levels – all of them currently occupied by independent businesses

A Local Development Order has been put in place to simplify the planning process for property owners and potential investors

This project is being procured via the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework. Carmarthenshire County Council has appointed a regional contractor who will develop the project alongside local supply chains.

For further information on this framework, email TSSWWRCF@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

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