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Flying the flag

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screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-10-48-15AT THE LAST meeting of the County Council, there was a lot of talk about ‘semantics’, the way in which words are used, abused, and misunderstood.

Chief Executive Mark James CBE picked up on one such ‘misunderstanding’ by Cllr Anthony Jones. Cllr Jones, Mr James averred, had become confused between the meaning of the word ‘endorsed’ and conflated it with ‘approval’. Approval, Mr James pointed out, in the case in point, had already taken place. The Executive Board had endorsed that earlier decision, not made it itself.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s flag policy attracted the attention of Herald columnist Cadno in August.

He noted that the Rainbow Flag, adopted the world over by the LGBT movement as a symbol of their pride, did not flutter over Gaol Hill for LGBT History Month in February of this year.

When we raised the question at the time, our reporter was told that Carmarthenshire ‘had a procedure’ regarding the flying of flags from public buildings, as the authority received so many requests to participate in special events that it had decided that indiscriminate flag flying required regulation.

After Cadno’s article (‘The Power of Love’) appeared in August, a Herald reader made a Freedom of Information Act request to Carmarthenshire County Council, seeking to establish just how many requests the Council had received in respect of its policy and how many it had received in the years preceding the policy’s adoption.

THE COUNCIL’S REPLY

Jimi Reid of Ammanford received the following response to his request:

“In the newspaper, I have seen a reference to a flag policy you have adopted, in which there is a procedure for making requests to fly flags from council buildings.

1. Please confirm when that policy was adopted by the council.

A. July 10, 2015.

2. Please confirm how many requests have been made and by whom under the provisions of that policy to fly flags from council buildings.

A. There have been two requests. One from a community group called CETMA (Community Engagement, Media, Technology & Arts) and the other from Seafarers UK.

3. Please confirm how many requests were made and by whom for flags to be flown from council buildings in the three years before the policy was put in place.

A. We do not hold this information.

4. In both instances, where the policy was in place and in the three years before the policy was put in place, please let me know how many of the requests made have been rejected and why they were rejected.”

A. The two requests received since the policy has been in place were refused. We do not hold information prior to the introduction of the policy.

CETMA’S REQUEST

Our attention was attracted by the inclusion of CETMA in the very short list of the ‘many’ applications the council had received in relation to flying a flag from County Council buildings. Among the projects with which CETMA is engaged are several relating to LGBT projects and LGBT Pride.

We contacted CETMA and asked them why their request had been rejected.

CETMA provided us with their request, made to Mark James CBE, Carmarthenshire Council’s CEO.

CETMA’S LETTER

Dear Mr James,

I am contacting you to see whether the County Council would fly the Pride Flag during the week of Monday 1st to Sunday 7th August 2016.

The reason for this is that we have a project called Llanelli LGBT Support and we will be holding Llanelli LGBT day on Saturday 6th August. The day is about everyone coming together to raise awareness about how far Carmarthenshire and Wales has come and how far it has to go in regards to equality and to celebrate achievements in the areas of LGBT.

Having the flag flying from Llanelli Old Town Hall on the day and during the week would be brilliant. We did try last year but we’d left it too late.

If you would like more information, then please let me know.

MR JAMES’ PERSONAL RESPONSE

Thank you for letting me know about the project that you are intending to run in August. As you may know, the council has been keen to promote diversity in the workplace and beyond. We have worked with organisations such as Stonewall to look at how we support employees and ensure that we are a welcoming employer. We were very pleased to have been placed in the top 100 employers in the Stonewall annual rankings and we will continue to work to promote diversity as an a employer.

With regard to the issue of flying flags, we get many requests from campaign groups and organisations to participate in their events and, whilst we are often happy to assist with those events at a community level, WE HAVE TAKEN A VIEW THAT THIS DOES NOT EXTEND TO FLAG FLYING AT CIVIC BUILDINGS (emphasis added). As I am sure that you will understand, if we agree to do so for one group, we would find it difficult to refuse another and this might lead to administrative or other difficulties. We have, therefore, in the past declined to use flagpoles at civic buildings in this way.

I wish you every success with your events in August. Please do let us know if there is anything else we might be able to assist with.

THE QUESTION OF TIMING

An examination of council meetings, agendas and minutes dated before the policy’s adoption shows no indication that the policy was EVER discussed by County Councillors. Indeed, the policy’s introduction in July is, entirely coincidentally, within 28 days of LGBT Pride Week. Any application made by CETMA after July 15, 2015 would have been caught by the adoption of a procedure which did not exist beforehand and which received scant – if any – publicity.

We contacted CETMA again and were told that, as LGBT Pride takes place at the beginning of August, the request to fly the flag in 2015 was made at the beginning of the July.

That means that the request to fly the LGBT Rainbow Flag from Llanelli Town Hall was made – entirely coincidentally – either before or at the time the flag policy was adopted.

A policy for which the council can provide no evidence for necessity .

Moreover, the rational underpinning the adoption of the policy, ‘introduced due to the increasing number of requests being received, and the cost implications’ is not only highly questionable, based on the limited number of requests made since the policy’s adoption, but impossible to verify because the council simply did not retain records. How the council can state that a policy was introduced on the grounds of ‘cost implications’ when it does not even hold the data relating to the requests – IF ANY – actually made, is even more questionable.

Since the policy’s adoption, the council has flown the Rainbow Flag once, in response to the Orlando nightclub massacre.

As it stands, on the face of Mr James’s words, the policy is redundant. Mr James will never give permission to fly any flag. On the basis that nobody will get permission, of course, the policy cannot be said to be discriminatory in any way.

Which, of course, it isn’t.

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New First Minister announces his cabinet

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HE FIRST MINISTER FOR WALES, Mark Drakeford, has today announced his new look cabinet to lead Wales. The First Minister said: “It is an enormous privilege for me to be appointed First Minister of Wales. Every leader needs a strong team around them, and I am delighted to introduce my new cabinet which is a strong mix of experience, talent and passion.

“Brexit is our greatest challenge.  In the extraordinary and regrettable circumstances created by the UK Government, it is vital that we prepare for all outcomes. I have retained Ministers in posts where their experience of Brexit preparation is key, while creating a new post to reflect the priority I attach to international relationships and trade.

“As a government we will continue to speak up for Wales, to fight our country’s corner and make sure the government in London is never in any doubt at all of what matters to the people of Wales.”

Cabinet and Deputy Ministers

Vaughan Gething
Minister for Health and Social Services  – Y Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Julie Morgan
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Eluned Morgan
Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language – Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol

Dafydd Elis-Thomas
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Diwylliant, Chwaraeon a Thwristiaeth

Ken Skates
Minister for Economy and Transport – Gweinidog yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth

Lee Waters
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport – Dirprwy Weinidog yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth

Julie James
Minister for Housing and Local Government – Y Gweinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol

Hannah Blythyn
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol

Rebecca Evans
Minister for Finance and Trefnydd – Y Gweinidog Cyllid a’r Trefnydd

Kirsty Williams
Minister for Education – Y Gweinidog Addysg

Lesley Griffiths
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs – Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig

Jeremy Miles
Counsel General Designate and Brexit Minister – Y Darpar Gwnsler Cyffredinol a’r Gweinidog Brexit

Jane Hutt
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip – Y Dirprwy Weinidog a’r Prif Chwip

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‘Mann’ who loves to touch himself caught masturbating whilst driving

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A ST CLEARS man was caught pleasuring himself at 60mph, a judge heard on Monday (Nov 26).
Liam Mann, 29, was driving no-handed west of Carmarthen when he overtook a woman motorist and signalled with his left hand for her to look at what he was doing.
Mann had pulled up behind the woman on the A40 dual carriageway..
He alerted her by blaring his horn and then pulled alongside when she slowed to work out what was wrong.
Ian Wright, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court it was clear what he was doing with his right hand.
Mann sped off but the woman noted enough of his registration number for police to arrest him.
Mr Wright said the victim was so worried she still found herself constantly looking round for Mann’s car.
Mann, of Green Park Terrace, Ash Grove, was before the court for three offences of exposure and one of breaching a sexual harm prevention order.
Mr Wright said on September 5 he pulled up alongside a 13 year old girl in Llandeilo and asked her for directions. She could see immediately that he was touching himself and ran to the home of a teacher.
On October 8 he drove passed a female pedestrian in the centre of Carmarthen and pulled in to park. As she walked passed she could see him sitting in the driver’s seat with his trousers and underpants around his thighs.
Mr Wright said the woman tried to take a photograph on her mobile telephone but was in such a panic she could not enter the passcode.
The A40 incident happened just 10 days later.
Mann admitted exposure and the breach and was jailed for two years and four months.
Judge Geraint Walters said it was a troubling case.
Mann had been jailed in 2014 for sexually assaulting a female child and had taken part in a rehabilitation course. The sentencing judge had made Mann the subject of SHPO.
Sadly, said Judge Walters, Mann still had “many unresolved issue.”
Mann was warned he would be on licence from prison until November 2023 irrespective of when he was released.

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Cross Hands roundabout closed

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CROSS HANDS roundabout is currently closed after a lorry has lost a load of its milk.

All junctions had to be closed, police said.

A police spokesperson is advising motorists to avoid the area if possible in the rush hour traffic.

They said: “We’re currently dealing with an incident at the Cross Hands roundabout – a lorry has lost its load of milk and all junctions have had to be closed.”

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