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.”
Dyfed-Powys Police Prepares for Royal Welsh Show
DYFED-POWYS POLICE is inviting Royal Welsh Show visitors to their stand to find out more about what the force is doing to protect the public over the summer months and beyond.
The stand, located at E340 behind the main grandstand, will be bringing to life key pledges and crime prevention messages from the Chief Constable’s Police and Crime Delivery plan, which sets out how police will tackle crime and keep people safe.
The force will be showcasing their summer campaign, called #EnjoyDPP, which is about helping people who live in, work in and visit the counties of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys respect those areas and prevent crime from occurring.
Rural-trained officers from Dyfed-Powys Police, Gwent Police and North Wales Police will be offering practical advice, at the police stand. They will also be on patrol throughout the showground listening to any concerns from the farming community. They will be accompanied by other officers, staff, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Special Constables and Police Cadets.
Specialist officers will also be speaking to landlords about County Lines drugs, and the signs to look out for that might show a tenant is being exploited by gangs, in a practice known as ‘cuckooing’.
Superintendent of Powys, Ifan Charles, said: “The Royal Welsh Show is the biggest event of the year we police in Dyfed-Powys, and also where we concentrate huge efforts on engaging positively with visitors to the show at our police stand.
“Come and say hello, meet our experienced and knowledgeable officers and staff and find out more about our commitment to keeping all of our communities safe by giving people the advice and confidence to protect themselves effectively.”
Visitors will be able to explore police vehicles, chat to Tarian colleagues about cyber-crime, meet a police dog, dress up as a police officer or Police Community Support Officer and solve a crime using real police techniques. Venture inside, relax on a hay bale and have a chat with experts on issues including rural crime, cyber-crime, issues that affect children and so much more.
Key partners will also be based at the stand including Crimestoppers, Modern Slavery group, Tarian and GoSafe.
There will also be a special children’s corner where young people can have their fingerprints taken, colour a police-themed picture or dress-up as a police officer or PCSO.
The Police and Crime Commissioner has a host of activities planned throughout the week. In addition to engaging with our communities, he is particularly keen to hear from victims of rural crime about their experiences when contacting police.
Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said: “The Royal Welsh Show is a great opportunity for me to engage with the public and gather their views on specific policing matters. This year, my team will be at the showground speaking to members of the public about rural crime and police contact. Please head over to speak to my team so that we can hear your views.”
The force is also offering advice for people heading to the Royal Welsh Show, including home security, personal safety and advice for people towing caravans.
Before you leave the house, take a photograph of your child. You’ll then know what they’re wearing if they become lost.
Write your contact number on a slip of paper and put it on your child’s person.
Before you head inside, double check your vehicle is locked and any valuables are safely out of sight.
. Lock your home, vehicles and outbuildings before you leave.
. Take your keys with you.
. Switch on any CCTV or alarm systems.
. Keep an eye on your neighbours’ properties while they are away.
. Check your driving licence. Do you have the correct category to tow?
. Number plates must be fitted to the rear of the caravan. They must comply with the regulations and not . be hand-written in pen on caravan OR written on a piece of paper or cardboard
. Ensure brakes and external lights are working correctly
. Check wheels, tyres, wheel bearings and suspensions are in good condition. This is particularly important if the caravan has been stationary for some time
.Tyres should be all the same type and size and have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. Also check the pressure
For more advice visit this website: https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/advice-and-training/advice-for-beginners/
There is more information for visitors on the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show’s website: http://www.rwas.wales/royal-welsh-show/
For updates on our activity follow us on Twitter @DyfedPowys, or like our page on Facebook.
Valleys Taskforce extended to Gwendraeth and Amman Valleys
THE GWENDRAETH and Amman Valleys are being included in the Welsh Government’s Valleys Taskforce, the Deputy Economy Minister and Transport Lee Waters has announced.
“These valleys are culturally very much part of the South Wales coalfield and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to alter the boundaries to bring them into the Valleys Taskforce so that they can benefit from ongoing work to drive investment and opportunities,” said Lee Waters.
“I got into politics to help the kinds of places I grew up in, so I am really pleased to announce we are extending the boundaries of the Valleys Taskforce to include the Gwendraeth and Amman Valleys” the AM for the Llanelli constituency added.
The announcement comes as the Valleys Taskforce announces a programme to bring empty homes back into use. Owners of houses that have been empty for more than a year in the Gwendraeth and Amman Valleys will be able to apply for a grant of up to £20,000 to bring the home back into use.
The £10 Million project is based on a pilot in Rhondda Cynon Taf and is being rolled out across the south Wales valleys.
“Tackling the problem of empty houses helps improve the feel of an area as well as providing homes for families. The Rhondda Cynon Taf scheme has shown us that applicants are choosing local businesses to undertake the refurbishment work, keeping money in the community and improving employment prospects. We want to support and encourage this as we roll the scheme out.” Lee added.
Local member of parliament Nia Griffith said: “I am delighted that the Welsh Government recognises the importance of supporting the local economy in the Gwendraeth and Amman Valleys, and this announcement today is very good news for West Wales.”
Councillor for the Tycroes ward in the Amman valley, Tina Higgins said: “I welcome the announcement that the Amman And Gwendraeth valleys are to be included in the Welsh Government Valleys Task Force area.
“This is extremely good news for the area. I look forward to supporting Lee Waters AM with this initiative and will be representing the views of residents in my ward whenever I can.”
Councillor Dorothy Jones, representing Llannon in the Gwendraeth valley said: “This is an exciting development for my ward and the Gwendraeth valley. I hope that we can use this new status to deliver affordable housing based on local income for residents and improve employment prospects in the area.
“I’m glad our AM Lee Waters has been able to deliver such strong support for the area and I’m looking forward to working with him as the taskforce moves forward.”
First vegan supermarket opens in Llanelli
THE FIRST vegan supermarket has opened its doors in Llanelli thanks to the support of a grant from Carmarthenshire County Council.
Kind Earth served its first customers with organic and locally sourced produce from its Stradey District Centre store in Maes Y Coed on Friday.
The business, owned by local resident Matt Rogerson, was supported with a grant of £4,435 through the council’s business start-up fund which is linked to job creation.
The money was used to purchase equipment including an EPOS system, fridges and freezers, shelving, trollies, baskets and light fittings.
The business is a plastic free zone offering paper bags and paper carriers to customers as packaging.
In addition to selling groceries, the store will run a terracycle scheme and host to a number of events including litter picking days and workshops on a wide range of topics to improve lifestyles.
Kind Earth’s Matt Rogerson said opening the store was a dream come true for him.
He said: “I’ve been so excited to open Kind Earth, and grateful to the council for the start-up grant and belief which helped pursue my dream. I hope that between myself and my stakeholders we can make our local and global community a better place. The shop is not only a vegan supermarket where people can buy fresh good quality locally sourced grocery items but offers customers to get involved in initiatives and workshops to make us a healthier and more sustainable community.”
Mr Rogerson said he hopes to employ in the future.
Carmarthenshire County Council Leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “I am happy that we were able to provide funding to support Kind Earth to develop a new business that will benefit the community and offer people a wider choice of food.
As a council we remain committed to strengthening our local economy and giving the people of Carmarthenshire as much choice as possible.”
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