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Vote of no confidence to be tabled

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THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION for Carmarthenshire County Council has released a letter outlining that a vote of no confidence will be tabled against the Leader of the Council in the coming days.

Cllr Rob James, Leader of the Opposition, released the letter on Monday (Feb 11), criticising the Leader of the Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole. Cllr Dole, who has been leader since 2015, represents Plaid Cymru in Llannon electoral ward.

Cllr James, who represents Labour in Lliedi electoral ward, cites the Swansea Bay City Deal and the proposed Llanelli Life Sciences and Well-Being Village as issues that are being mishandled by the current administration.

The £1.3billion Swansea Bay deal is set to transform the economic landscape of the area, boost the local economy by £1.8billion, and generate almost 10,000 new jobs over the next 15 years. Eleven major projects will get underway, delivering world-class facilities in the fields of energy, smart manufacturing, innovation and life science, with major investment in the region’s digital infrastructure and workforce skills and talent underpinning each.

The Life Science and Wellbeing Village at Delta Lakes will include an Institute of Life Science, a Community Health Hub, a Wellness Education Centre, a Clinical Delivery Centre and state of the art new leisure centre, as well as assisted living accommodation, a nursing home, business space and a wellness hotel. It has been estimated that the £200m project could boost the local economy by £467m.

The letter reads: “Dear Cllr Dole, I am writing to you concerning the Swansea Bay City Deal and the proposed Llanelli Life Sciences and Well-Being Village.

“As you are aware, since becoming Leader of the Opposition in May 2018, I have sought to highlight my concerns about your administration’s handling of the £1.3 billion city deal and our worry that the on-going maladministration posed a significant risk to the future prosperity of the region. It should be noted that since making my concerns public in November, we have witnessed the suspension of four key members of staff from Swansea University – including its Vice Chancellor, Carmarthenshire Council unilaterally cancelling its agreement with Sterling Health and the launching of four reviews into the city deal.

“Local businesses and residents have since raised concerns that they fear your actions have damaged the reputation of this region, and the city deal rests on a knife edge.

“As a responsible Opposition, we have sought to hold your administration to account in the attempt to improve decision-making, rather than oppose at every avenue. Carmarthenshire Council is unique in this region, in that it actively prevents backbench and opposition Councillors receiving information relating to the operation of Council. In Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire Councils, colleagues inform me that they are provided with copies of what we refer to as ‘exempt item reports’. This access to information allows Councillors from all parties to scrutinise the decision-making of the relevant authority. Despite raising concerns with the Monitoring Officer and with yourself, 64 Councillors are still in a position where we are being blocked from scrutinising your decision-making.

“Since May, under your Leadership, the Executive Board has used powers under the ’72 Act to exclude the public and backbench members from two-thirds of all of your meetings to discuss exempt items, including a report on the provision of the proposed Llanelli Well-Being Village, the ‘Yr Egin’ Business Case and that of the Well-Being Village. This action appears to illustrate a fundamental disdain for scrutiny, a strategy that prevents the all elected representatives being informed, and a premeditated effort to prevent the opposition holding you and the administration you lead to account.

“In an attempt to fulfil our scrutiny role and ensure that the proposed investment was sound, I took the unprecedented decision to voluntarily commit myself, as Leader of the Opposition, to making no public comment on the city deal in exchange for you guaranteeing access to all documents connected with the Life Sciences and Well-Being Village. This is the first time this has ever happened in Carmarthenshire Council; this clearly demonstrates our desire to see the city deal succeed.

“Last week, we took the difficult decision to withdraw from this agreement after an analysis of the information raised further questions surrounding the independence of the internal review and the promises made to us on the full publication of the internal review to the public was not forthcoming. We believe it is regrettable that this internal review has now been ‘leaked’ to the Western Mail before the other 62 Councillors of our Authority were able to read its content.

“We believe it is also highly regrettable Carmarthenshire Council, in an attempt to reassure the public on the procurement process surrounding Sterling Health, chose to use Acuity Legal to conduct its internal review.

“Members of the public will be aware that this firm was used by the Chief Executive to take legal action against Carmarthenshire blogger, Jacqui Thompson. I am also aware several of the partners of Acuity Legal have been active supporters of the city deal for some time. Jonathan Green, Acuity Legal’s real estate partner, has appeared on a panel with Pembrokeshire Council’s Steven Jones promoting the City Deal, with other partners, such as Clare Tregoning and Hugh Hitchcock, making public remarks of support for the city deal.

“I am of the firm view that Acuity Legal is not sufficiently independent in this case, and therefore was in no position to investigate the actions of officers and that of your administration. Instead, this action has further eroded public confidence in this Authority and all those connected to the city deal.

“It also appears from recent press reports, that the Chief Executive has also been involved with a £600m joint venture to create a private hospital and medical school in Kuwait. In a statement to the media, the Chief Executive is quoted as saying his involvement is in connection with the Swansea Bay City Deal and has been authorised by Council. It alleged this scheme forms part of the investigation into the senior academics suspended at Swansea University. To my knowledge, his involvement has not been sanctioned by Full Council, nor have I been able to identify the meeting in which the Executive Board authorised the Chief Executive to undertake this role on behalf of the Authority. As a result, I have sought guidance from the Monitoring Officer to identify who authorised this action and the legal basis for the decision-making.

“Due to the aforementioned restrictions on opposition members accessing information in connection to the operation of this authority, the Joint Working Agreement stating that it is the responsibility of local authorities to scrutinise their own local projects relating to the Swansea Bay City Deal, and on-going questions into the conduct of officers, I am writing to inform you that we have lost all confidence in your ability to deliver on the promises of the city deal.

“We can not sit idly by as you put this once in a generation opportunity, a £1.3 billion investment in the region with enormous potential to deliver jobs and prosperity to the thousands of local residents, at risk. Therefore, in the coming days we will seek to table a vote of no confidence in you as Leader of Carmarthenshire Council.
“The people of Carmarthenshire deserve much better than this.”

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Carmarthen: Police appeal following death of 31-year-old Harry Lloyd

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THE INVESTIGATION is continuing into the death of 31-year-old Harry Lloyd who had suffered serious injuries at Francis Terrace, Carmarthen and later died at hospital.

There is still a police presence at the property and enquiries being made in the local area.

We were called to an incident at an address in Francis Terrace, Carmarthen at around 9.50am on Wednesday, February 20.

Enquiries are on-going to establish the cause of death.

A 28-year-old-woman arrested on suspicion of GBH remains in police custody.

Here’s a tribute from Harry’s family: “We are absolutely devastated by the loss of our son, brother, nephew, cousin and friend.

“Harry was a very popular, beautiful, gentle soul who will be missed.

“Please allow us to grieve this terrible loss in private.”

The police have asked that anyone with information that can help officers with their investigation is asked to report it by phoning 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number: 07811 311 908. Use reference: DP-20190220-098

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Care home told staff not to speak Welsh

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THERE is an investigation taking place after it was revealed that a care home had warned members of staff about speaking Welsh.

Isfryn in Ystradgynlais has Approved Headway Provider status and provides rehabilitation and support for individuals with an acquired brain injury. It has been revealed that staff were told that it would be unacceptable if clients heard employees conversing in a language they did not understand. The Accomplish Group, which runs Isfryn, has announced that it was reviewing the issue.

The Welsh Language Commissioner, Meri Huws said: “If two or more people wish to speak or write to each other in Welsh in Wales, they have the freedom to do so, in accordance with the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011.

“If someone, such as an employer, tells them that that they should not continue to use the Welsh language, they are possibly interfering with that freedom. The Welsh Language Measure gives me as Commissioner statutory powers to investigate such cases.

“From the evidence I have seen today, it appears there may be an interference with staff’s freedom to use Welsh at Isfryn, Accomplish. I will be contacting the organisation to gather more information in order to understand the situation fully. I would also like to encourage anyone affected to get in touch with my office to enable us to investigate the matter fully.”

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Plans to partially re-open Cwmduad road following landslide

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s highways team hopes to partially re-open the A484 at Cwmduad in March, following extensive work to clear and make the area safe after a landslide.

The council has been leading a highly complex operation to clear the highway and stabilise the land since October, when the landslide tragically claimed the life of a young man.

Works are progressing well, and providing things continue to go to plan, the council hopes to re-open a single lane on March 18.

To date, the operation has involved extensive clearance and reinstatement of land off the highway, with the creation of a 10 metre buffer zone; construction of a ramp from the highway to the river, to aid the recovery of lorry that was swept in with the force of the landslide; and clearance of silt from the highway.

Work currently underway includes the construction of highway support and reinstatement of the bank to the east of the highway, as well as highway drainage clearance and reinstatement.

The final stage of works – which will take place alongside the single carriageway opening – will involve rebuilding a parapet wall alongside the highway, before the road can be fully re-opened.

Ruth Mullen, Director of Environment for Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “We are pleased that works have progressed well, and we can now plan for the partial re-opening of the road.

“We are grateful for the support from the community during a prolonged and difficult period. It has been a complex project and we have continued to be mindful of the sensitivities both locally and within the community where one person tragically lost their life.

“Whilst we have worked at pace to enable the highway to be reopened as quickly as possible, the safety of the public has always been our primary focus.”

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