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Plaid takes legal advice on data breach

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PLAID CYMRU’S Adam Price AM and Jonathan Edwards MP are in talks with lawyers after the First Minister used yesterday’s (Jan 30) session of First Minister’s Questions to release both incorrect information and the details of correspondence between Hywel Dda Health Board and their constituency office.

During a heated exchange on hospital reorganisation in west Wales, Adam Price AM took the First Minister to task over leaked proposals to strip back services in west Wales hospitals. The First Minister responded by releasing details of e-mails between Mr Price, his office and the Hywel Dda health board, and stated Mr Price had not responded to requests to meet with the Health Board.

Mr Price said the First Minister was completely incorrect, and that his office holds a series of e-mails with the Health Board seeking to arrange a meeting.

Furthermore, legal advice sought by the Plaid Cymru AM notes that the health board may have breached Mr Price’s data protection rights, and those of his parliamentary colleague, Jonathan Edwards MP.

Speaking after the exchange, Adam Price AM said: “The First Minister’s actions during today’s questions session bring his office and his Government into disrepute. His comments in the Chamber today are factually incorrect, and the First Minister has therefore misled the Assembly.

“It wasn’t that long ago a Welsh Government Minister was sacked for trying to access information that could have been used for political purposes to discredit political opponents. On the face of today’s exchange it would appear the First Minister and/or his team have tried to do the same thing. This is clearly a breach of both the Civil Service and Ministerial Code.

“The legal advice I have been given notes that Hywel Dda Health Board is potentially in breach of the data protection rights granted to myself, my parliamentary colleague Jonathan Edwards, and our staff members.

“At my request, the Chief Executive of the Health Board came to Assembly to meet with me this evening in which I presented evidence of correspondence between our offices and my requests to meet with him.

“In an endeavour to restore trust I am sure the Health Board will now wish to correct the record.”

Adam Price’s parliamentary colleague, Jonathan Edwards MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr added: “This is the latest reminder that there is something rotten at the core of this Labour Welsh Government.

“Either they are soliciting information from a independent health board for political purposes, or the health board has been compromised in a manner which sees it comfortable referencing correspondence between elected representatives.

“I will be seeking to raise a Point of Order on this matter in the House of Commons at the earliest possible opportunity to establish what guidance is available to elected representatives who have their data breached by any public body or government official in this manner.

“The First Minister’s claims that Adam Price and I ignored Health Board requests for are meeting are manifestly untrue and we have written evidence to prove that. The First Minister is clearly buckling under the pressure of several inquiries into his and his government’s conduct – he is running out of options and soon to be out of office.”

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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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