A TASK and Finish report which was intended to ‘research different approaches to car parking charges that could be applied in the county’ has been criticised for failing to suggest any real changes to the status quo.
The Task and Finish group was commissioned last year, following numerous petitions for free parking in Carmarthenshire and the implementation of a reduced trial in Llanelli.
The group, comprised of cross-party members of the Environmental and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee, was also c harged with evaluating a pay-on-exit system for Llanelli multi-storey car park.
The report found, based on a number of national reports and the council’s own data, that there was a need for parking charges, not least to ensure vehicle turnover, and that the revenue was necessary to support infrastructure works, notably the refurbishment of Llanelli multi-storey car park which cost £1.8m in 2012.
However, it failed to reference other reports commissioned by neighbouring authorities which, while supportive of charging for parking, all point out that the revenue benefit of charging by local authorities needs to be weighed against the adverse effect of charging on town centre trade.
In spite of the significant variation in parking charges from town to town, it was claimed that ‘Carmarthenshire’s current charges were extremely competitive’ – something which must have come as news to Carmarthen visitors who paid more for 1-3 hours parking than any of the 15 towns across Wales referenced.
Other recommendations made to the group included re-instating free parking on Sundays, the introduction of ‘shop and drop’ initiatives in town centres, free parking on weekday afternoons, and the simplification of parking bands. None of these recommendations were endorsed, although it was suggested that ‘Where feasible, the Council introduces ‘shop and drop’ bays in the county’s towns, in proportion to the size of the town and spaces available, for a limited waiting time of up to 30 minutes.’
The cancelling of car parking charges on Sundays, it was warned, would cost the local authority £132,259 per year.
However, the report recommended that ‘free parking days’, should be increased from five to seven a year. At present free parking days are not permitted in December, and the report recommended that they should be prohibited in November as well. Given that Carmarthen enjoyed a notable increase in footfall by offering free parking on the last weekend in November last year, this is also unlikely to prove universally popular.
FREE PARKING DAYS
At present, free parking days are permitted if the days are agreed a month or more in advance, private sector car park operators are asked to match the council offer, and ‘the Council’s support is acknowledged in all marketing literature, adverts and publicity for events.’ Organisers are also ‘encouraged’ to advertise in ‘Carmarthenshire News’ – a selffunding newsletter put out by the council and other stakeholders.
The data for the free parking trial in Llanelli last year – which as The Herald reported at the time was somewhat less than what was requested – was not included in the report. However, the analysis stated that the one month trial of free parking between 3pm and 5pm had not led to any increases in footfall which could not be classed as being in line with trends or as a result of exceptional events. It was further found that ‘displacement’ meant that any increases in car park users were met with reductions when parking charges were in place.
A less official free parking trial in Cardigan last year, when traders reported large increases in footfall as the result of sabotaged meters, was also not considered.
ALUN LENNY SPEAKS TO THE HERALD
Cllr Alun Lenny, a town and county councillor in Carmarthen, was one of those who found the report somewhat underwhelming in its scope. Speaking to The Herald, Cllr Lenny stated his intention to question the Environment and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee on Friday (May 13).
“I am disappointed that this report seems to deny free parking is an effective economic lever, with no evidence I can see to substantiate that,” he said.
“The main objective of this report was to research different approaches to parking in Carmarthenshire. I would question the nature and scope of the research undertaken.
“They didn’t involve individuals or bodies, or give them the opportunity to present evidence in person, nor did they visit other towns and counties to carry out research.
“Instead, they based their research on figures and reports which were presented to them by the council’s own officers, without challenging these.
“In that case, as the Task and Finish Group report is based on little evidence other than that provided by council officers, I believe that the Scrutiny Committee should consider rejecting the report, on the basis that it has not fulfilled its own remit.”
Cllr Lenny also criticised the claims made about car parking charges in Carmarthenshire being ‘extremely competitive’.
“For 1-3 hours parking, Carmarthen is the most expensive on the list of towns in the report,” he remarked. Pointing out that charges varied from £1 to £3.40 across the county, he asked how these could be treated equally.
“This is just something cobbled together by officers – I have no doubt this is an officer-led report,” he added.
The claim that removing Sunday car parking charges would cost CCC more than £130,000 was also queried by Cllr Lenny, given that in 2013 when the charges were first announced it was estimated that they would earn around £70,000 in revenue for the council. “I hardly think our car parks are packed on Sundays,” he remarked.
The Scrutiny Committee will have the opportunity to make recommendations on the report on Friday, before it goes before the Executive Board and the Full Council at a later date.
The Burry Port Harbour Improvement wins top civil engineering award
THE BURRY Port Harbour Improvement has been announced as the winner of the Bill Ward Sustainability Award at the recent ICE Wales Cymru Project Awards held on Friday (30 September) at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.
The Bill Ward Award is presented to the project best demonstrating the principles of sustainability, i.e. social, economic and environmental benefits during delivery and on completion. The Judges were impressed with the way two major companies, Alun Griffiths and Atkins, worked hand in hand on the project with their client, Carmarthenshire County Council, to deliver the scheme to a fixed budget, within programme and to the complete satisfaction of historic port custodians Cadw.
Burry Port Harbour is made up of three historic (tidal) basins contained by vertical masonry walls and earth embankments. The 3 harbours comprise 1500m of masonry vertical walls and revetments, which had fallen into disrepair and collapse since its heyday transporting coal in the 1800’s.
The project is an ongoing, phased renovation with attention being given first to areas of instability. Displaced masonry has been recovered from the floor of the harbour and re-used. New materials have been chosen with care to ensure they are appropriate and will fit into the historic marine.
The work has safeguarded the historic masonry fabric for future generations, provided a safe harbour for the marina vessels and provided the waterside frontage for the Council’s vision to transform the harbour into a dynamic living, leisure and work hub for future generations.
Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine
IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.
APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES
The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”
WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE
Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”
WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS
Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”
UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE
The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”
THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS
Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.
NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR
Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.
Retired teacher, 75, dies following Saturday night incident in Burry Port
RETIRED teacher Peter Ormerod, aged 75, who suffered serious injuries in an incident in Burry Port on Saturday night (24 September) has sadly passed away earlier today.
His family have paid tribute to him, saying: “Peter was a well-respected teacher and member of the community.
“A very loved and loving father, grandfather, brother and friend.”
The family requests privacy at this difficult time.
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