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.”
Almost 100 jobs to go at Calsonic Llanelli
A MAJOR Llanelli employer is to shed almost a quarter of its employees following what it describes as a ‘significant drop-off in sales’.
Calsonic Kansei, based says that continuing political and economic uncertainty have contributed to its decision to lay off 95 workers at its Lleithri Road factory on the outskirts of the town.
Calsonic were offered £4.4m from the Welsh Government to create 88 jobs at the plant late last year.
Llanelli’s local AM, Lee Waters, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for the Economy and Nia Griffith MP issued a joint statement about the jobs blow.
Lee Waters AM said “Nia Griffith and I will be doing what we can to work with the company, trade unions and other employers in the area to help the workers directly affected. And the Welsh Government will be extending the taskforce helping workers at Schaeffler to offer practical support.”
“Calsonic were offered significant Welsh Government help to develop new products at the end of last year, and we will continue to do what we can to help create a sustainable future for the site, through what is clearly a troubling period.”
Nia Griffith MP said “The next month will be a difficult period for the workers and their families at Calsonic, both Lee and I are ready to do whatever we can to help anyone affected. Alongside working directly with the factory staff and the trade unions, I’ll be using my voice in Parliament to ask the UK Government to match Welsh Government’s ongoing commitment to the plant and the workforce.”
Calsonic’s vice-president of HR for Europe, Neil O’ Brien, said: “The automotive industry is at a transitional stage, as well as being at a key point in several major vehicle ‘life cycles’, with car manufacturers developing their technologies to satisfy the ever demanding environmental legislation and moving towards autonomous and electric vehicles.
“During this period of transition, the added pressures of market instability caused by the political and economic conditions have affected our customers’ volumes and, consequently, Calsonic Kansei’s sales have seen a significant drop.
“The company intends to do everything reasonably possible to reduce the impact of this proposal on its employees.”
In January Schaeffler announced plans to close its plant in Leave-voting Llanelli with a loss of 200 skilled jobs.
Schaeffler also cited uncertainty about the UK’s economic and political future as being partially responsible for its decision.
West Wales responds to Notre-Dame ‘tragedy’
THE WORLD has reacted to the major fire that partially destroyed Notre-Dame Cathedral, with religious leaders of west Wales among those to have sent prayers to Paris.
The large fire on Monday (Apr 15) damaged much of the historic landmark, destroying the roof as well as the famous spire. The fire began at around 6:30pm local time (4:30pm GMT) and it took until 10am (8am GMT) on Tuesday morning for firefighters to fully extinguish the blaze. Many of the relics held in the cathedral, including the crown of thorns brought there in 1239 by St. Louis, said to be that which was placed on the head of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion, were saved by firefighters. One firefighter is said to have suffered minor injuries while tackling the fire. The cause of the fire is not yet clear, but Paris’ public prosecutor is working under the assumption that it was an accident.
Whilst the principal structure was saved, including the famed towers, the building is still seen as unstable. Prior to the fire, there was already scaffolding in place to deal with the cracks appearing in the stonework. Renovations were underway and 16 copper statues had already been removed last week.
Notre-Dame de Paris, meaning ‘Our Lady of Paris’, is one of the most widely recognised symbols of France, and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site of the cathedral is thought to have been of religious significance dating back as far as Roman Gaul. The construction of the modern church began in 1163, and the cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.
Already hundreds of millions of euros have been donated towards the reconstruction of the site, as people across the world have reacted to the news and sent both prayers and funds to Paris.
Bishop of Menevia Tom Burns said: “For a thousand years it has stood as a beacon of prayer and hope. But what a tragedy struck Paris and the French nation on Monday evening at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It is a beautiful creation that resides at the very heart of French life and in the hearts of French people wherever they happen to be, of whatever faith or none. It has struck chords in all people of good will who have walked through its doors into an arena of peace and calm.
“Some years ago, after wondering at the flying-buttresses that supported the thick stone walls, I had entered under that roof, never conscious of the vulnerability of its wooden structure. As I saw on television on Monday evening the fire raging through the roof, and the spire disintegrating piece by piece, I felt a lump in my throat. I shared with the people of France my sense of having once touched something quite unique. For, it had been my privilege, as Bishop of HM Forces, to preach from the Cathedral’s vast pulpit on Remembrance Sunday just over a decade ago.
“Now this was another sad occasion to remember, though thankfully without any loss of life. As York Minster was resurrected from the flames some years ago, and similarly Windsor Castle in more recent times, may the experts in restoring ancient buildings combine their God-given skills to rebuilding Notre-Dame de Paris. May it rise from the ashes to fulfil its function as God’s House in this world and to re-assure us that such a building evokes belonging and inspires us to greater things. It is still greatly needed, if not even more so now.”
Fr. Liam Bradley, Parish Priest at St David and St Patrick Church in Haverfordwest, said: “We hold in our hearts and prayers those who take risks to save life and property. May God bless the skills of craftsmen and women as they undertake the task of rebuilding.
“God our Father, let the community of Paris come together in this moment of difficulty and grace, to rebuild your house and do you honour, and so provide an enduring monument of how high the human spirit can soar in the face of adversity.
“As buildings crumble, may our faith be strong; from the ashes, may new fruit be born. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Paris, may all the people of France be filled with the peace and joy of Jesus Christ, risen for us at Easter. Amen.
“St Denis – Pray for us!”
New funding for businesses to improve key areas of county
A NEW pot of funding has been opened up to support regeneration, business growth and job creation in key priority areas across Carmarthenshire.
The Targeted Regeneration Investment (TRI) programme is part of a Welsh Government regional scheme to drive economic development in areas deemed most in need.
Areas chosen for investment in Carmarthenshire are Llanelli Town Centre and Station Road, and Ammanford Town Centre.
Businesses can apply for funding from two main thematic funding streams – a Property Enhancement Development Grant and Sustainable Living Grant.
Projects must promote economic regeneration – creating jobs, enhancing skills and employability and creating the right environment for businesses to grow and thrive.
A Property Enhancement Development Grant provides gap funding for owners or occupiers of vacant commercial buildings to enhance frontages and bring vacant commercial floor space back into use.
Where a local need has been identified, it could also fund development projects that create new commercial floor space.
A Sustainable Living Grant supports the conversion of vacant commercial space on upper floors into new homes. It can be used alongside the Property Enhancement Development Grant, and other initiatives, to encourage mixed-use regeneration of properties.
Cllr Emlyn Dole, Council Leader and Executive Board Member for Regeneration, met Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn in Llanelli Town Centre recently to discuss the TRI programme and other ongoing improvements to the town.
He said: “This targeted investment has potential to make a real difference in Llanelli and Ammanford, and complements the council’s on-going efforts to regenerate these important towns.
“We are pleased to be part of this regional programme that will make the most of vacant commercial space and help improve the appearance and vibrancy of our town centres.”
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn said: “We want to support local businesses, grow our fantastic town centres and create job opportunities in Llanelli and Ammanford. Creating more good quality commercial and retail space will play a real part in this, as will creating homes in the centre of our towns, so people can live and work centrally and contribute to the local economy.
“This fund will help to create opportunities out of empty properties and attract more people to our town centres. I look forward to seeing some exciting refurbishments, and businesses growing and prospering across in Llanelli and Ammanford as a result.”
Any businesses or applicants interested, or with a deliverable project in the priority areas identified, should contact Carmarthenshire County Council’s Economic Development Team for an initial discussion.
Contact Economic Development Coordinator, Tessa Peregrine, on TPeregrine@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or 01554 748815.
More information is available on the business section of www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales.
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