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Plaid lose another AM

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NEIL McEVOY, the controversial Cardiff AM, has been expelled from Plaid Cymru’s Assembly Group.

Mr McEvoy had been suspended from Plaid Cymru in September last year, while the Party investigated him over allegations regarding his conduct while an AM.

That suspension followed Neil McEvoy’s refusal to toe the line on his party’s policy on ending the sale of council houses in Wales, to which he is opposed.

Mr McEvoy is the second of Plaid’s AMs to now sit as an independent, joining former leader Dafydd Elis Thomas, who quit the party group in 2016.

Plaid now has ten Assembly Members.

The Cardiff AM has had a tempestuous relationship with his fellow Plaid Cymru members.

A former member of the Labour Party, he has said: ​”​I never quite fitted into Labour; I was too working class, too dark, too outspoken and rejected top down, centralised politics.​”

Last August, Neil McEvoy launched a barely concealed direct attack on Plaid leader Leanne Wood’s approach in the Welsh Assembly, claiming the party was ‘irrelevant’ to Wales’ young people; and telling nation.cymru: ‘Let’s stop hearing “Would the First Minister agree…” questions from Plaid and bin the cosy pairing system, where we have prior agreement on how many votes the Government will win by’.

In December, the AM suggested that he was a victim of ‘groupthink’ in the Assembly, for refusing to ‘bend the knee’ and maintaining his own independence of thought.

However, comments made in press conference on Tuesday (Jan 16) appear to have exhausted the Plaid group’s patience with Mr McEvoy.

He is reported to have claimed that as the party had referred allegations against him to the standards commissioner, the party’s investigation had concluded. In addition, he said that it appeared there was one rule for one AM and another for others in the group.

He referred to other Plaid AMs who had questioned party policy in the past or backed other parties without any suspension or disciplinary action against them.

A spokesperson for the Plaid Group said that Neil McEvoy’s behaviour had left colleagues feeling ​’​
undermined and demoralised​’​ and that ongoing issues were distracting Plaid Cymru AM from getting on with their work of serving the people of Wales and holding the Labour government to account.

A Plaid Cymru Assembly Group spokesperson said: “The Plaid Cymru Assembly Group has taken the decision to permanently expel Neil McEvoy from the group. The decision was unanimous.

“A statement issued by Neil McEvoy today is full of errors. Firstly, it makes inaccurate claims about the reasons for his suspension from the Assembly Group. “As was stated at the time, Neil McEvoy was suspended for breaching standing orders and the Group’s Code of Conduct through unacceptable behaviour.

“Secondly, Neil McEvoy’s public statement this morning saw him once again peddle untruths about the way in which the Plaid Cymru Assembly Group operates. Such comments only serve to smear the reputation of colleagues and underline the insincerity of Mr McEvoy’s alleged desire to return to the Group.

“In this context, Mr McEvoy is being expelled due to an irrevocable breakdown of trust.

“His ongoing behaviour has left Assembly Member colleagues feeling undermined and demoralised.

“Plaid Cymru representatives’ loyalty first and foremost is to the people of Wales. We will not be distracted from our work of serving them to the best of our ability by such deliberate and sustained sabotage.”

Mr McEvoy responded: “It is with real regret that I have been forced out of the Plaid Cymru group.

“I was elected to be a Plaid Cymru Assembly Member after votes from thousands of people who wanted me to not do politics as usual.

“My focus has always been on holding the Labour government to account and it will continue to be so. I’ve never been interested in fighting with my own colleagues.

“Democracy in Wales is broken and Labour is the party that broke it. But I firmly believe that Plaid Cymru is the party who can fix it.

“We need to bring in more working class and diverse people into our party. We need to help the people who have never considered voting for Plaid Cymru before. That’s what I’ve tried to do.

“I’ll keep representing those people who have been left behind and given up on politicians.

“We’re not all the same. There are people who really care. I grew up on an estate in Cardiff and I made it to the Assembly. I hope that inspires people to know that anything is possible.

“Politics is about ideas but it’s also about personalities. We don’t always get along but there is always the bigger picture.

“Wales is a great country. It needs a great government and I’m going to keep doing all I can to make sure we get one.”

Neil McEvoy claimed that he was still in the dark about why he was expelled from the Plaid group and had received overwhelming support from his local party and had been compelled to file a subject access request against Plaid Cymru to receive details of allegations made against him.

He explained that he would try and persuade the Standards Commissioner, Mr Justice Roderic Evans QC, to now hear allegations made by Plaid Cymru, even though they were over one year old, in some instances, and blamed the delay in dealing with allegations on his former Party’s internal procedures.

“What is really frustrating for me is that away from the bubble in Cadiff Bay the party in Cardiff is thriving,” he said.

“We’re being actively prevented from campaigning for Plaid Cymru by this nonsense, really.

“What we have is a culture of anonymous allegations, anonymous briefings, that are destroying people’s reputations.”

Local AM Simon Thomas expressed exasperation about the way events had unfolded.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales on Wednesday (Jan 17), he said: ​”​I think Plaid Cymru has been appalling with dealing with disciplinary issues.

“I think one issue that both myself and Neil McEvoy would agree upon is that this disciplinary process outside the group has dragged on for months without resolution.

“Neither of us would be happy about that.

“I would challenge the party more widely to look at disciplinary processes and to ensure that people selected as Plaid Cymru candidates do what they are signed up to do.”

Criticising his former colleague’s approach – and referring to the subject access order Mr McEvoy had obtained – Mr Thomas said​:​ “He’s perfectly at liberty to do so – it’s his legal right – but it doesn’t demonstrate to us a person wishing to work with us in the future.”

In spite of Plaid Cymru now having lost two of the AMs it was elected with in 2016, and in spite of the Conservatives being the largest single opposition party group, there are no plans to rearrange membership of key Assembly committees; something likely to be a sore point for the Conservatives.

In a comment to The Herald, UKIP leader Neil Hamilton said:​ ​”Plaid Cymru are so intolerant. They expel Neil McEvoy from their Assembly Group just because he believes council tenants should be able to buy their own homes. Home ownership is a bulwark of a free society.

“Neil McAvoy is an excellent, fearless AM with a mind of his own but Plaid clearly wants its AMs to toe the party line, rather than follow their conscience. UKIP AMs are not told what to do. They vote according to their principles.”

Read Matthew Graham Paul’s column on the situation here.

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Police release new CCTV image of murder suspect

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE has released a new CCTV image of Steve Baxter, who detectives are keen to speak to in connection with the murder of Simon Clark from Pendine, Carmarthenshire.

The image was captured in Glynneath on Saturday, September 29. He is believed to have traveled to the west Wales area shortly afterwards and is believed to be in the Haverfordwest area.

Baxter, also known as Steve Tidy, Steve Rowley, Wayne Tidy or William Tidy, is aged 52, 5’5” (1.65cm) tall and has tattoos on his forearms – the name Chez and entwined circles on his left arm and a serpent on his right arm.

He is bald, but was last seen wearing a hat and wig, as shown in this image. He may have made other attempts to alter his appearance such as growing facial hair or wearing glasses.

Detective Superintendent Huw Davies said: “We’re releasing this CCTV image from the latest confirmed sighting of Steve Baxter to give people the most up to date example of how he may be dressed and how he may currently look.

“Time is passing and we really need to speak to Steve Baxter to build a more accurate picture of what happened in Pendine.

“To anyone that may know where he is, please pass this vital information to police.”

The independent charity Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to £5,000 for information leading to Steve Baxter being found. Information would be taken by the charity anonymously.

If you see Steve Baxter call Dyfed-Powys Police on 999.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Steve Baxter call Dyfed-Powys Police on 101 immediately.

To pass on information anonymously, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or through the non-traceable anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

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Carmarthenshire counting the cost of Storm Callum recovery

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CARMARTHENSHIRE is beginning to count the cost of the clean-up that is needed to get the county back on track after Storm Callum.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were affected by the worst flooding seen in the area for over 30 years, and whilst a clear picture is yet to emerge about the true cost of the recovery, Carmarthenshire County Council said it will take millions to put right.

It is now calling on the Welsh Government to assist.

An initial assessment estimates that £3million will be needed to repair highway infrastructure alone, although all bridges and roads – other than the A484 at Cwmduad which was closed due to a landslide – have been re-opened.

The council set up an immediate flood recovery relief fund of £100,000 to support residents whose homes were damaged, offering a £200 advance to anyone in need, and offering practical help to people by collecting damaged furniture and household items, support to complete insurance claims, electrical safety testing, and in some cases temporary accommodation.

It is also working with Xcel Furniture in Carmarthen to appeal for donations of household items to help those affected get back on their feet.

Officers visited over 100 businesses in affected areas on Monday and is continuing to support them, including around 40 businesses who will be applying for grant support from an additional £200,000 fund established to assist businesses.

Leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “Over the last few days our teams have visited hundreds of people and businesses to let them know that help is at hand. We will do everything possible to help those affected get back on track.

“However the true cost of the recovery is set to run into millions. Our initial impact assessment of highway infrastructure alone estimates that there is around £3million of repairs needed.

“Whilst we have already made two hardship relief funds immediately available to homes and businesses, we are now seeking assistance from Welsh Government to ensure that appropriate resources are available.

“I will be pleased to meet the First Minister later today to put our request to him in person.”

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Help for businesses affected by flooding in Carmarthenshire

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CARMARTHENSHIRE Council is pulling out all the stops to help businesses affected by flooding over the weekend.

Eight teams from the council’s regeneration department have been out and about, visiting businesses across the county to offer advice and support, if needed.

Over 120 businesses were visited on Monday (October 15) in areas including Carmarthen town centre, Pensarn, Abergwili, Nantgaredig, Llanybydder, Lampeter, Pontweli and Newcastle Emlyn.

Other areas visited included Llanelli, Capel Dewi, Johnstown, Llandeilo, Llandovery, Garnant and Dryslwyn.

Council officers are now making contact with those businesses once again, following-up on their concerns and liaising with other council departments to address issues as soon as possible.

Over 40 Carmarthenshire businesses are already being helped.

A council funding pot to help businesses in the county affected by flooding is also being made available. Details and information on how businesses can apply will be confirmed in coming days.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Carmarthenshire Council Leader, said: “Council officers in many departments have been working around the clock alongside outside agencies and our partners in the emergency services to help residents and businesses affected by flooding over the weekend.

“Face-to-face contact with businesses means we’ve been able to quickly identify what we can do to best address all issues raised. This has already included signposting businesses to our environment team for contamination issues, tackling concerns related to the collection of waste, and arranging for skips and cages to be despatched to areas that have been badly affected by the flooding for the collection of ruined carpets, furniture and other waste.

“But despite the ongoing clean-up operation, Carmarthenshire is very much open for business, with county residents and businesses showing a huge amount of resilience in the face of adversity.

“I’d urge people to continue to support their local businesses while we help those worst affected get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Other council work has included highways, cleansing and refuse staff removing debris left by the flood waters. Inspections of all affected road surfaces, verges and bridges are also taking place.

Council housing officers are visiting homes across the county to help people with insurance claims, a hardship fund has been established for residents most in need of financial support, and rate relief for affected businesses is being sought from the Welsh Government.

A flood support form for residents and businesses is also now available on the homepage of Carmarthenshire Council’s website.

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