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Over 250 jobs created in Carmarthenshire to boost economy

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MORE than 250 jobs have been created in Carmarthenshire as part of the county council’s efforts to boost the area’s economy.

The local authority’s annual report for 2016-17 shows that through economic development the council has been able to create 253.5 jobs, safeguard 192.5 jobs, accommodate 28 jobs, place 1,598 people into volunteering, 344 into jobs and 3,127 into training.

The council has supported the creation of 33 new enterprises and secured over £23.5m in investment/funding.
It launched two development fund schemes during the summer – the £2m Carmarthenshire Rural Enterprise Fund Scheme (CREF) and the £3m Transformation Commercial Property Development Fund Scheme.

The CREF has awarded grants totalling over £475,000, and construction has commenced on a number of those projects. Those helped include Sauro Architectural Design which was awarded £60,000 from CREF towards transforming a derelict building in Elliston Terrace, Carmarthen, into its new headquarters creating three jobs.

The Transformation Commercial Property Development Fund Scheme also had several applicants invited to proceed to detailed application stage, with two projects having received formal grant offers awarded and a further six projects progressing with their applications.

The council has developed a Tackling Poverty Policy statement and Advisory Panel to oversee the Tackling Poverty Action Plan, and has been working with rural communities through the LEADER programme to identify innovative ways to address rural poverty.

Employment in Carmarthenshire is up by nearly5% (increased from 69.1% to 74%) and gross weekly pay is up by 6.2% (from £464.8 to £495.5). Out of work benefits have reduced to 11.4% of the working-age population (down from 11.8% in 2015). There has been a 9% increase in people achieving NVQ level 4+, up from 34,200 to 37,600 people.

Council leader Cllr Emlyn Dole, who also heads regeneration in the county, said: “The report shows that the county’s economic regeneration efforts are bearing fruit, bringing in millions in investment and funding, creating new jobs and safeguarding existing ones.”

Executive board member for resources Cllr David Jenkins said: “I’m pleased with the statistics that relate to employment being up by nearly5%, fewer people on out of work benefits and the fact that pay is up. I think this is symptomatic of our regeneration policy. Long may it continue.”

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Demand for Christmas Toybox Appeal donations almost doubles

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MORE families than ever before have asked for support from Carmarthenshire County Council’s Christmas Toybox Appeal.

Families who have requested assistance are up 40 per cent on previous years, and despite more toys than ever before being donated to the appeal, co-ordinators are struggling to keep up with demand.

The deadline for donations has now been extended in the hope that more generous people will donate.

In particular, donations are being sought for older girls and boys. Anyone wishing to donate is asked to keep gifts unwrapped to allow for easier sorting.

All families who will receive support have been nominated by a social worker, family health visitor, or their school, and a strict process is in place to ensure help is given to those most in need.

The council’s Toybox Appeal is now in its 8th year, and was set up to prevent families going into poverty or turning to loan sharks to get through the Christmas period.

The Appeal also helps ensure that no child wakes up on Christmas morning without a visit from Santa.

Cllr Mair Stephens, Deputy Leader of the council, said: “It’s really very sad that we have seen such a huge increase in the number of families who have asked for, or been nominated to receive, support.

“Whilst we are amazed by the number of gifts donated this year, unfortunately, we do not have enough to meet the demand and we are appealing to the generosity of local people to help families who are less fortunate.

“We are still collecting donations, and in particular we are asking for gifts suitable for older children. We really are very grateful of all donations.”

To donate a gift, visit any of the below locations, or call Appeal co-ordinator Nia Thomas on 07814716380 to arrange collection

·         Customer Service Centre, 3 Spilman Street, Carmarthen

·         County Hall, Carmarthen

·         Natwest Bank, Carmarthen

·         Blas Myrddin at Parc Dewi Sant, Building 2, Carmarthen

·         Block 1, Parc Myrddin, Carmarthen

·         Cillefwr depot, Carmarthenshire County Council, Johnstown, Carmarthen

·         Nant y Ci, Carmarthen

·         Llandeilo Community Education Centre

·         Tesco Ammanford

·         Town Hall, Ammanford

·         Pontyberem Hall

·         Town Hall, Llanelli

·         Hub, Llanelli

·         Cathedral Hygiene, Unit 1, Dragon 24, North Dock, Llanelli

·         Burns Pet Nutrition, Kidwelly

·         Jennings Solicitors, Llanelli

·         Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli

·         Yr Atom, King Street, Carmarthen

·         Llanelli Library

·         Ammanford Library

·         Carmarthen Library

·         Leisure Centres at Llanelli, Carmarthen, Ammanford, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandovery, St. Clears

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Drakeford confirmed as First Minister

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MARK DRAKEFORD was confirmed as the new First Minister after a vote in the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday (Dec 12).

Carmarthen-born Drakeford succeeds Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader, after Jones resigned on Tuesday.

Mr Drakeford, 64, has styled himself as a ’21st Century socialist’, and throughout his leadership campaign promoted continuity and stability as a candidate, having worked as a Welsh Government special advisor under Rhodri Morgan and being the only Welsh Government cabinet minister to support Jeremy Corbyn when he ran for the UK Labour leadership in 2015.

The AM for Cardiff West has been in the Assembly since 2011, becoming Health Minister in 2013 before becoming Finance Secretary in 2016.

Mr Drakeford grew up in Carmarthen, and was educated at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Boys. He then went on to study Latin at the University of Kent, before working as a probation officer and Barnardos project leader in west Cardiff.

Mr Drakeford went on to pursue a career in academia, lecturing at Swansea University, and then becoming a professor of social policy and applied social sciences at Cardiff University.

His first experience of electoral politics was as a councillor on the old South Glamorgan County Council, before serving the Cardiff ward of Pontcanna between 1985 and 1993.

Mr Drakeford was one of the two candidates, alongside Eluned Morgan, to have produced a manifesto during the leadership campaign, setting out many of the policies he hopes to introduce. These include an extension of the smoking ban to outdoor areas such as restaurants and town centres, the cutting of emissions through greater emphasis on public transport and building on Superfast Cymru – a scheme to rollout 733,000 homes and businesses across Wales.

The manifesto also proposed installing drinking fountains across Wales, double allotments, and piloting a ‘baby bundle’ – similar to baby box schemes in other countries with a package of essential items.

Mr Drakeford also suggested introducing a committee to advise the Welsh Government on the Hinckley Point power plant in Somerset, as he has spoken of his scepticism regarding nuclear power.

The new First Minister has also backed proposals put forward by economist Gerry Holtham to fund elderly social care in Wales through a tax. An annual review of PFI contracts across the Welsh public sector would be introduced, and the 22 councils across Wales would be kept as they are.

One issue that has been subject to much debate is the potential for the M4 Relief Road, but Mr Drakeford’s manifesto does not mention it specifically. Instead, it states a commitment to dealing with congestion, citing the A40 in Mid and West Wales, the A55 in the North and the M4 in South Wales.

The other two leadership candidates, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan, had both backed another referendum on whether the UK leaves the EU, yet Mr Drakeford is less set on another vote, saying he would only back it should the final deal fail to protect workers’ rights.

As Finance Secretary, Mr Drakeford has been in charge of much of the Welsh Government’s approach towards Brexit so far.

In Wednesday’s vote, Mr Drakeford was backed by 30 AMs, with 12 voting for the Conservatives’ Paul Davies and nine supporting Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price.

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£300 anonymous donation to food bank

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WORKERS at the Ammanford food bank were shocked to find an anonymous donation had provided the organisation with 33 crates of food, with a total value of £300.

The food bank expects to help at least 100 people over the next three weeks, and speaking to the BBC, worker Paul Kennedy said that this donation provides ‘peace of mind that we can definitely manage, no matter how many come through the door’.

Tesco called the food bank last Thursday (Dec 6) to inform them that a delivery had been put through their system.

Judging from the contents it is thought the donor had checked the food bank’s website to see what items they needed.

Kennedy said: “The person who phoned through said it was at least £100 worth of food, which we were amazed at – it was very generous.

“When the delivery arrived the food bank manager asked which crates were ours and was told ‘they’re all for you’.

“We were blown away. It’s the largest donation by an individual to our food bank.

“Universal Credit comes into the area today and, with Christmas as well, it’s by far our busiest time.

“We just want to express our gratitude really on behalf of our clients because, while it helps us as a food bank, that help goes straight to the clients.”

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